Tag Archives: Bright Eyes


The Sky Is the Limit for Larkin Poe

October 30th, 2014

Larkin Poe – Mercury Lounge – October 29, 2014

Larkin Poe – Mercury Lounge – October 29, 2014
When I saw Conor Oberst play Central Park’s SummerStage back in July, I loved his massive hodgepodge of a backing band, the majority of which was made up of opener Dawes, and there was a horn section. But most notably there were two women tearing it up on slide guitars and singing the Emmylou Harris parts during the Bright Eyes songs that night—and I knew I had to find out who they were.

It turns out they are the sisters who make up Larkin Poe, a country-tinged band from Atlanta that last night set Mercury Lounge ablaze with a pressure-cooked set of songs. Fresh off an appearance backing up Kristian Bush on the Today Show and not far removed from a tour opening as a duo for Elvis Costello (“We got to stay on his tour bus,” admitted older sister Megan Lovell excitedly), they looked and sounded ready to be doing their own thing again. “It feels so good to be back with the full band,” the younger Rebecca Lovell candidly told the crowd. The exposure and experiences the pair were able to rustle up in the last year or two must have been fun, but you could see they are now dead set on focusing that momentum on Larkin Poe.

That starts with their first full-length, Kin, released last week, an album full of sweet melodies juxtaposed with bluesy grit often materialized in the form of Rebecca’s straight guitar licks or Megan’s atmospheric slide-guitar playing. Larkin Poe played most of the album last night, and as good as those songs sound in headphones, they’re even more of a force to hear in person. And if Larkin Poe can find a way to use the sisters’ music-industry momentum to attract more ears, the sky’s the limit. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com


A Little Bit of Everything with Conor Oberst and Dawes

July 30th, 2014

Conor Oberst and Dawes – SummerStage – July 29, 2014

Conor Oberst and Dawes – SummerStage – July 29, 2014
Going into last night’s Conor Oberst show, I really had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t seen him perform since 2005 at Webster Hall, when he was feverishly touring behind the concurrent releases I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Would last night’s SummerStage crowd be made up of the same sort of screaming diehards who used to fill venues for his shows? Or would it be people who had found out about him later in life, perhaps just fans of his solo career? Turns out, those in attendance, much like the hour-and-a-half set they witnessed, were a refreshing mix of everything.

Backed throughout the night by the terrific opening band, Dawes—and occasionally some auxiliary members—Oberst began the set with “Time Forgot,” the opening track from his newest album, Upside Down Mountain. The song set the tone of much of what was to come, with Oberst strumming the rhythms (often on an acoustic guitar) behind his still sometimes trembling voice while lush melodies were sung and played behind him by the shape-shifting band. Considering the effort some other artists put into separating their solo careers from the bands that made them famous, I was surprised by how much of the set was filled with Bright Eyes songs. Oberst didn’t just play the obvious ones, like “Lover I Don’t Have to Love,” either. Early on, the crowd gleefully sang along to “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now” and “Hit the Switch,” each from those 2005 releases, and deeper cuts like the cheeky “Bowl of Oranges.” The expanded sound benefitted many of his more folkie songs extremely well, adding bounce to the already bouncy “Danny Callahan” and nearly turning the encore-capping “Another Travelin’ Song” into a soul revival with horns shouting over the tune’s furious pace.

The night’s most poignant moment just might have been the slow-burning country ballad “Poison Oak,” which began with just Oberst and Dawes’s Wylie Gelber and Taylor Goldsmith before it blossomed into a raging full-band sound as the song crested. Throughout all of this, the crowd hung on every moment. Fanatic adoration still pays a big part in the dynamic of Oberst’s performances, with concertgoers shouting at nonsensical moments, or loudly professing their love for the man while loosely mouthing the lyrics. But last night’s show proved that many of his fans have come a long way since the days of Bright Eyes—just as Oberst has. It’s a progression that’s stark when viewed after nine years of missing out, but it’s still just as rewarding to see. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Mina K


Conor Oberst and Dawes Play SummerStage Tomorrow Night

July 28th, 2014

He’s known for his trembling voice, fine acoustic-guitar playing and evocative storytelling, and on his sixth and most recent solo release, Upside Down Mountain (stream it below), Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst is in as fine form as ever. Perhaps thanks in part to coproducer Jonathan Wilson, the LP takes Oberst (above, doing “Time Forgot” for WFUV FM) in a newish direction, delving into that ’70s AM rock made most famous in Laurel Canyon. Per Rolling Stone’s David Fricke: “A sumptuous immersion in ’70s California folk pop, it is the most immediately charming album he has ever made,” further adding, “but Like Neil Young’s Harvest and Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky, this is dreaming stalked by despair, then charged with rebound.” Now out on the road in support of Upside Down Mountain, Oberst is playing live with Dawes, the modern California four-piece closely associated with that Laurel Canyon sound (perhaps unfairly). And tomorrow night at SummerStage, Dawes open the show and then perform a set with Conor Oberst.


The Faint Turn Music Hall of Williamsburg into a Dance Party

May 15th, 2014

The Faint – Music Hall of Williamsburg – May 14, 2014

The Faint – Music Hall of Williamsburg – May 14, 2014
I’m a firm believer in the difference between favorite shows and the best shows that one sees over the years. They aren’t mutually exclusive concepts, but the ideas behind them are driven by differing meanings. When I saw the Faint open for Bright Eyes at Webster Hall in 2005, it was the kind of show that landed in both categories, one so memorably loud and fun that it’s stuck with me all these years. And seeing them again last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg for the first time in nine years, not much had changed, in a good way. After taking the stage to thunderous sound effects and slowly whooping sirens, the Nebraska dance rockers launched into an hour-and-a-half set, stretching late into the night.

While their music makes for great listening, the Faint’s live show feeds more senses. Matching and alternating with the dance beat of each song, beams of colored light quickly swept over the band, often while strobe lights popped and patterns flashed on giant LED panels at the back of the stage. Early in the set the band’s relentlessly pulsing club sound was in strong form on new songs like “Animal Needs,” a track off their newest release, Doom Abuse. But the crowd’s fever pitched when the band began reaching back a decade or more by playing their older material, bouncing around at a medium pace during “Posed to Death” before going wild when drummer Clark Baechle got to the machine-gun drum hits that preceded a big “HEY!” shout that everyone joined in on.

And when the Faint followed that with “I Disappear” from their most popular album, 2004’s Wet from Birth, the Music Hall floor started to bounce just like the one at Webster Hall does so often now (and did so memorably at that show in 2005). From that point forward, those kinds of moments escalated, notably during songs like the breakdown “Agenda Suicide”—the opening track to 2001’s epic Danse Macabre—which had fans hollering, and during the encore when singer Todd Fink said, “We’re going to turn this into a dance party now if you don’t mind” (as if that hadn’t already been happening) before the band finally played “Glass Danse,” arguably their biggest hit. By that time, what was left of the crowd obliged, crushing plastic drink cups beneath their feet as they jumped around to the beat. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Greg Pallante | gregpallante.com

(The Faint play Webster Hall on Saturday and The Bowery Ballroom on Monday.)


Desaparecidos Deliver a Noble Message

February 27th, 2013

Desaparecidos – Webster Hall – February 26, 2013

Desaparecidos, the post-hardcore/punk band formed by Bright EyesConor Oberst in the early 2000s, have recently reunited and taken their politically charged show on the road, appearing before a sold-out crowd at Webster Hall last night. Initially inspired by anger at the state of world affairs during the George W. Bush presidency, Desaparecidos’ return can be seen as a clear message that the world is in just as dire straights (if not worse) than it was when Oberst wrote the band’s early songs. Desaparecidos’ new material treads on some similar thematic territory as 2002’s Read Music/Speak Spanish: the evils of capitalism, materialism and an unjust war—with new songs specifically targeting such topics as discriminatory immigration policies in Arizona (“MariKKKopia”) and the plight of the 99 percent (“The Left Is Right”).

While addressing the crowd, Oberst acknowledged that undertones of pessimism and sarcasm run through the sentiments of their songs, but he expressed a hope to rattle people out of their own apathy. A noble message, though to witness the throngs of people in the crowd passionately screaming along with lyrics like “I want to pledge allegiance to the country where I live/ I don’t want to be ashamed to be American,” from “The Happiest Place on Earth,” it seems possible that Oberst may be largely preaching to the (angry, disenfranchised) choir. Even so, if Desaparecidos can use their biting lyrics and heavy guitar lines to incite and inspire their fans to become more involved in political discourse and activism, all under the guise of letting loose at a pretty great rock show, it would seem that their reunion has accomplished its goals. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Mina K

(Desaparecidos play Wesbter Hall again tonight.)



Close Out Your Weekend with Titus Andronicus

November 30th, 2012

Since forming in 2005, indie punkers Titus Andronicus have earned comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, Bright Eyes and the Pixies. Rolling Stone has even gone as far as to say they “may be the most ambitious punk band in America.” Not too shabby, right? Following the release of their second album, the much-praised The Monitor, the five-piece went through some lineup changes. But now they’ve returned with an equally ambitious third LP, Local Business (stream it below). The new tunes were all road tested earlier in the year before Titus Andronicus (above, doing “In a Big City” for Pitchfork TV) headed to New Paltz, N.Y., to recreate their high-energy stage act in the studio. And now you can see them live
at Webster Hall on Sunday night.


Conor Oberst Doesn’t Disappoint

November 26th, 2012

Conor Oberst – Carnegie Hall – November 21, 2012

Outside Carnegie Hall last Wednesday, scalpers were offering tickets for Bright Eyes the night before Thanksgiving. What the what? Bright Eyes at Carnegie Hall? ’Twas true, as one Conor Oberst headlined a sold-out Stern Auditorium. From musical wunderkind to revered label chief, the 32-year-old’s long career was on full display in the famed hall’s confines. Covering material largely from his band, Bright Eyes, Oberst was dressed to the nines with a Calla lily boutonniere adorning his breast pocket and began his set solo with “The Big Picture.” Crooning the last line of the song from Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, his vocals reverberated throughout the hall.

Joined by multi-instrumentalist Ben Brodin, Oberst introduced new material early on with “Common Knowledge.” Getting comfortable, he joked that it was great to kick back in a venue that reminded him of shows back in his hometown of Omaha, Neb. Adding more company on the vast stage, Oberst called upon Rachel Cox to accompany him on “Classic Cars,” and long-term Bright Eyes member, Nate Walcott, sneaked onstage unbeknownst to Oberst until Walcott seated himself with trumpet in hand for “Southern State.” The number was thoroughly enhanced with classical keys from the black Steinway, which was one of the most expected instruments at the hallowed venue. Having played “At the Bottom of Everything” in 2004 for the Tibet House Benefit Concert, Oberst revealed it wasn’t his first time performing at Carnegie Hall.

Women play a big part in Oberst’s songwriting canon, which was also the case with “You Are Your Mother’s Child,” a new song. With James Felice on accordion, Oberst continued his female-inspired musings, playing “Ten Women,” a song he described as being careful what you wish for. The oldie “Laura Laurent” was a fan favorite, although its material sadly chronicles Oberst’s struggles with his depression-stricken ex. Not to enshroud the setting with too much emo, he picked up the tempo, dedicating the Monsters of Folk ditty “Map of the World” to fellow Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis, who was absent for the night. Oberst rocked out as his long locks whipped with every guitar strum. Not to leave fans wanting more, his encore included “Lua,” with Cox filling in for Gillian Welch, “Make War,” and the Felice Brothers crew on “Waste of Paint,” leaving no one disappointed as they exited the lush, grand venue. —Sharlene Chiu


Bright Eyes Look Back, Gaze Forward

March 10th, 2011

Bright Eyes – Radio City Music Hall – March 9, 2011

Bright Eyes - Radio City Music Hall - March 9, 2011
Bright Eyes performed the second of their two sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall last night in support of their new record, The People’s Key. The evening was bookended with the album’s opening and closing tracks, the grunge-inspired “Firewall,” setting things off, and the uplifting “One for You, One for Me,” sending us on our way at the end of the night. As for the space in between, frontman Conor Oberst took the crowd on a nostalgic trip through some of the band’s extensive back catalog, reaching as deep as 1998’s “Padraic My Prince,” and also treating the crowd to versions of “The Calendar Hung Itself” and “An Attempt to Tip the Scales” from Fevers and Mirrors, released more than 10 years ago.

Although the music of Bright Eyes was originally associated with emotive, often glum, and at times uncomfortably honest songwriting, over the past few albums, Oberst’s songwriting has gradually shifted in focus, growing to favor the metaphysical over the personal. Yet last night, he seemed to relish the opportunity to revisit lyrics and themes from his most introspective days, including “The Trees Got Wheeled Away,” “Take It Easy (Love Nothing),” “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” and a poignant version of “Poison Oak.”

As the band performed older songs side by side with new numbers such as “Jejune Stars” and “Shell Games,” the night served as an impressive chronology of Oberst’s journey as a songwriter and musician, his fascinations and hang-ups, his political inclinations and protests, and his explorations of different sounds and musical styles. Whether he was pacing the stage while shouting out the lyrics to songs off I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning or seated at his keyboard slowly plucking out The People’s Key’s pensive “Ladder Song,” Oberst seemed comfortable and content with revising where Bright Eyes’ music has been and where it’s going. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Andy Keilen | spartanmarchingband.smugmug.com/Music


A Double Dose of Bright Eyes

March 4th, 2011

Bright Eyes began in mid-’90s Omaha, Nebraska, when Conor Oberst sought out a new band for his songwriting to be featured, ultimately, on Saddle Creek Records, the label he founded with his brother. Oberst was eventually joined by a rotating group of musicians before he finally settled in with Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott as permanent members. Many years and acclaimed EPs and LPs later, Bright Eyes (above, playing “Jejune Stars” on Late Show with David Letterman) are still going strong, having just released their seventh studio album, The People’s Key, just a few weeks ago. And with that in mind, the band—and Superchunk and Wild Flag—heads our way for two shows at Radio City Music Hall next week. Wednesday’s is sold out, but you can still get tickets to see them on Tuesday. And let’s face it, you really should!


Spend Two Evenings with Monsters of Folk

November 3rd, 2009

Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (of Bright Eyes), Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) and M. Ward have put together their significant talents to form Monsters of Folk and to record a terrific self-titled album (stream three songs here) that has taken them out on the road and earned them favorable comparisons to the Traveling Wilburys and Crosby, Stills and Nash. They recently played Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit, and tonight they’re performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. But if you want to see these MoFos in person—playing a mix of originals, covers and songs from their respective catalogs—you’re got two chances: They play United Palace on Friday and the Beacon Theatre on Sunday.

(Check out the the video for “The Right Place,” above.)


Beware of Monsters of Folk!

September 15th, 2009

Monsters of Folk
Like Godzilla or that thing from Cloverfield emerging from the East River, the Monsters of Folk are descending upon our fair city (United Palace on November 6th and the Beacon Theatre on November 8th). Although these monsters—singer-songwriter and guitarist M. Ward, Bright Eyes’ singer-songwriter and guitarist Conor Oberst and multi-instrumentalist and producer Mike Mogis and My Morning Jacket’s singer-songwriter and guitarist Jim James—are far more talented than scary. This supergroup formed in 2004, and they finally have an album, Monsters of Folk, coming out next week. The tour begins next month, and you should expect at least a two-and-a-half-hour “musical event” consisting of well-crafted material from the album, covers and original My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes and M. Ward tunes, plus a whole lot of guitar. But don’t just take out word for it, check out this American Songwriter interview with the four-headed beast. And if you want to get on this ride, get in line ’cause tickets are going fast.

(Check back with The House List next week for some more Monsters of Folk info.)