Tag Archives: Conor Oberst

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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

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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.

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Conor Oberst and Dawes Throw Record-Release Party

May 21st, 2014

Conor Oberst/Dawes – Rough Trade NYC – May 20, 2014

Conor Oberst/Dawes – Rough Trade NYC – May 20, 2014
The inspired pairing of Conor Oberst and Dawes, who have teamed up on tour in support of Oberst’s latest offering, Upside Down Mountain, threw a sold-old record-release party last night at Rough Trade NYC, a lively show full of mutual admiration and camaraderie, replete with a multitude of intra-band fist bumps. New songs like “Double Life” and “Time Forgot” cover Oberst’s signature introspective lyrical territory, and although the climax of “Desert Island Questionnaire” last night reminded us that Oberst likes to get loud and aggressive too, Upside Down Mountain is primarily a gentle, subtle album.

Dawes delivered a solid opening set of their own before beautifully fleshing out Oberst’s songs, lending a warm and roots-y vibe with occasional twang, and more than kept up as Oberst indulged in those louder moments. With a catalog as large and prolific as Oberst’s, having recorded and released music for more than two decades of his young life, he has the ability to curate a unique live experience by pairing new material with complementary songs from his long list of older work.

Last night, Oberst tapped into our collective nostalgia with “Hit the Switch,” “Old Soul Song” and “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now,” songs that were all released nearly 10 years ago, during a period of songwriting that contained an intimacy much like that found on Upside Down Mountain. A true celebration with his new friends onstage and old friends in the crowd, Oberst seemed happy and grateful to introduce his new collection of songs, and we were certainly happy to receive them. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Dana (distortion) Yavin | distortionpix.com

(Conor Oberst and Dawes play SummerStage on 7/29.)

 

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A Top Five Look Back at 2013

January 10th, 2014


Ten days into the New Year, The House List looks back at 2013 with some Top Five lists.

My Top Five Favorite Shows
1.
The Postal Service, Barclay Center, June 14
My decade-belated live date with the Postal Service finally culminated at Barclays Center, where rabid fans, like myself, roared as Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello hit the stage. As if acting out lyrics from “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Jenny Lewis shimmied close for the duet. Old friends reunited onstage never felt so good.

2. Haim, Webster Hall, September 3
I was late to this bandwagon, as fellow House List contributor Alex Kapelman shortlisted Haim last year for his Top Five Bowery Presents Shows of the Year. I knew I was in for a good one when I could barely find a spot in the rafters to catch the three sisters, who charmed with their onstage banter and wicked musicianship

3. Jessie Ware, The Bowery Ballroom, January 17
Straight off her Jimmy Fallon taping backed by the Roots, the British songstress elated the crowd with her effortless, down-to-earth stage demeanor. Her star quickly rose with American audiences, as she sold out shows at Webster Hall, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Irving Plaza throughout the year. I was glad to have caught her earlier in the more intimate venue.

4. Basia Bulat, Bowery Ballroom, November 23
I’ve been a fan of Basia Bulat since I heard her cover Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” This show on a cold night wasn’t sold out, which made me a little sad since she’s quite the talent. But those who were there were enraptured by her prowess on autoharp to the point that you could hear a pin drop during her solos.

5. Daughter, Bowery Ballroom, April 30
Somehow Elena Tonra manages to disguise heartbreak behind soulful lyrics and melody. She has a knack for turning happy dance songs into somber endeavors. The band mashed-up Bon Iver and Hot Chip’s “Perth/Ready for the Floor” that evening. Check out Tonra’s somber retake of Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky” for further proof. —Sharlene Chiu

My Top Five Shows I Never Thought I Would See
1. Desaparecidos, Webster Hall, February 26

Desaparecidos (and really any Conor Oberst project) were my bread and butter back in the early aughts, and for a while they seemed to be a one-off, a politically minded side project firmly planted in the past. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the global state of affairs remains messed up enough for the band to regroup to write protest songs for a new decade. It was a nostalgic, sweaty and inspired performance.

2. Shuggie Otis, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 19
Shuggie Otis began putting out music in the mid-’70s, followed by a long period of laying low. Content to groove along to songs like “Ice Cold Daydream” at home, I never really thought about the possibility of a Shuggie Otis tour in 2013. But when I found out, I was there. And “Ice Cold Daydream” is even better in person.

3. The Flamin’ Groovies, The Bowery Ballroom, July 6
Instead of discovering the Flamin’ Groovies in a smoky San Fran club in the ’60s, I was introduced to their catchy psychedelia on a Nuggets compilation more than 30 years later. Who’d have thought they’d still be going strong in 2013 and that I’d be dancing right alongside some old school fans at this fun summer show.

4.  John Prine, Beacon Theatre, September 26
John Prine has been active since the early ’70s, but unlike Shuggie Otis, he never really went away, writing and recording songs at a steady pace throughout the years. But I still always thought of him as an artist too legendary for me to see in person—or that tickets would be too out of reach. But John Prine put on an amazing show, highlighting his singular skills as a songwriter and storyteller.

5. The Julie Ruin, Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 25
I was late to the party for the original riot-grrl movement, but I became an admirer of Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna during her time in Le Tigre. She’s dealt with some debilitating health issues in the past few years, but I had no doubt she’d continue to make art and music. So I was happy to learn of her latest project, the Julie Ruin, and her energetic show did not disappoint. —Alena Kastin

My Top Five Shows
1. Yo La Tengo, Town Hall, February 16

I don’t like to pick a favorite, but my last.fm account tells me I’ve listened to Yo La Tengo more than any other band since 2007. At Town Hall, they performed an acoustic set and an electronic one, doing two versions of “Ohm,” my favorite song of the year. And then I ran into Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! Had the Red Sox not won the World Series, this would’ve been my favorite night of the year.

2. Killer Mike/El-P, Webster Hall, August 14
I don’t care what anyone says: The best two rap albums of 2012 came from Killer Mike and El-P. And in 2013 they topped them, coming together as one entity, Run the Jewels. The night included a set from El-P, a set from Killer Mike and a combined set with both. El-P’s ingenious production plus Killer “I bleed charisma” Mike equals one concert I will never forget.

3. Foxygen, The Bowery Ballroom, October 21
With Foxygen it occasionally feels like shit could fall apart at any moment. And sometimes it does. But when their shows don’t come unhinged they deliver that sweet thrill of relief, like narrowly avoiding a car crash. And on this Halloween-themed night, the band made a weird show even weirder with homemade costumes and pseudo spooky vibes.

4. Steve Earle, Music Hall of Williamsburg, May 8
You can just tell some people are genuine, and Steve Earle is certainly one of them. Forever wearing his heart on his sleeve, that same energy bleeds right into his music, which he played alongside what he’s calling “the best band he’s ever had.”

5. Meat Puppets, Mercury Lounge, April 4
Not only are the Meat Puppets still kicking (after living through some serious shit), but also they’re thriving. And as much as I respect their legacy, seeing them play for more than two hours with the intensity you’d expect of a band 20 years their junior makes me respect them that much more. Long live the puppets of meat! —Dan Rickershauser

My Top Five Shows
1. Dessa, Union Hall, May 5

There are few performers I feel can move mountains with their vocal chords, and Dessa is one of them. This performance was an eruption of defiant lyrics and bold beats. A sizable crowd of young girls knew all of her lyrics, giving the show a chant-like feel. The only female member of Minnesota’s Doomtree collective practically vibrates with energy, and it’s completely contagious.

2. Kishi Bashi, Irving Plaza, September 12
Kishi Bashi sounds even better live than he does recorded. And he delivered a dazzling set with profuse vocal looping and an excellent backing band. Kauro Ishibashi has a supercharged, effusive aura, and his music embodies that persona. This set took a rowdy turn that involved crowd surfing, strobe lights and an outright jam session.

3. Panama Wedding, CMJ Music Marathon
I happened upon newcomers Panama Wedding three different times during CMJ: Initially, opening for NONONO at Mercury Lounge on the first night. Since the band had only released one song, “All of the People,” I was eager to see what would unfold onstage. Their set was so tight that I caught the fantastical pop group the following night at Pianos and then again at a showcase at Santos Party House.

4. You Won’t, Rockwood Music Hall, October 30
The live iteration of You Won’t is a spectacle to behold. I watched eagerly as Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri wielded a slew of instruments with ease, quickly fascinating the audience. The duo took their jaunty music into the audience a couple of times to break the barrier and enlisted some extra vocal support by encouraging us to all to sing along.

5. James Blake, Terminal 5, November 6
In this spellbinding live performance, complete with plenty of vocal looping and haunting electronica, James Blake made a cavernous room filled with people feel intimate. And that he’s such a dapper-looking fellow only helps boost his appeal. I’m still transfixed by this performance nearly two months later. James Blake’s music has some serious lasting effects. —Schuyler Rooth

My Top Five Shows with Regard to Lights, Visuals and Production
1. Umphrey’s McGee, Brooklyn Bowl, January 20

Kick-ass creative lighting
and Brooklyn Bowl don’t usually go hand in hand, but Umphrey’s McGee lighting guru Jefferson Waful turned the room into a thing of beauty.

2. Föllakzoid/Holydrug Couple, Mercury Lounge, March 21
What better way to enjoy some old school psychedelic music than with some old school liquid projections courtesy of Drippy Eye.

3. Plaza: Portugal. The Man, Irving Plaza, May 20
Freakin’ lasers!

4. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala, Terminal 5, October 1
It was almost as fascinating to watch the Lips’ spectacle getting set up as it was to see it in action—confetti, strobes, LEDs and, well, pretty much everything. And Tame Impala’s projections were no slouch either.

5. Phish, Atlantic City Boardwalk, October 31, November 2
Phish’s fall tour found lighting director Chris Kuroda playing the Willy Wonka of eye candy all over the East Coast. —A. Stein

My Top Five Albums
1. Phosphorescent, Muchacho
I’d only seen Phosphorescent once before listening to Muchacho for the first time. And while much of Matthew Houck’s previous work is country-tinged (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this album, ostensibly about a breakup, covers more territory, from the meditative sounds of “Sun, Arise (An Invocation, an Introduction)” and “Sun’s Arising (A Koan, an Exit)” to the jammy, driving “Ride On/Right On” to softer fare, like “Muchacho’s Tune,” all centered on Houck’s evocative voice. I still can’t stop listening to it.

2. Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Foxygen’s third full-length, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, comes off as a loving mash note to ’70s rock. You’ll hear bits of the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and David Bowie, but the album expertly manages to sound like something whole and new rather than something derivative.

3. White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade
Upon the first couple of listens, I found White Denim’s latest, Corsicana Lemonade, to be too singer-songwriter-y, but I continued to give it a chance, and it opened up to something much bigger, with genre-hopping songs like “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” and “Pretty Green”—not to mention some searing guitar parts—grabbing me by the throat.

4. Futurebirds, Baba Yaga
Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Futurebirds, out of Athens, Ga., before writing a preview of their late-May show at The Bowery Ballroom. But while listening to their second LP, Baba Yaga, as I wrote, I became totally enamored of the album—half twangy Southern rock and half spacey reverb.

 5. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
I love Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze so much, that I can’t believe it’s only No. 5. Labeling it stoner rock, as many have done, is lazy. Although I supposed me calling it laid-back rock isn’t any better. But the fact of the matter is there might not ever be a better album to listen to while walking the streets of New York City with headphones in your ears. —R. Zizmor

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Dawes Play Terminal 5 with Shovels & Rope Tomorrow Night

June 21st, 2013

Since forming in Southern California four years ago, the guys in Dawes—Taylor Goldsmith (vocals and guitar), Wylie Gelber (bass), Griffin Goldsmith (drums) and Tay Strathairn (keys)—have won over fans across the land with their high-energy live shows and three albums—North Hills, Nothing Is Wrong and this year’s Stories Don’t End (stream it below)—filled with tightly written songs, quality harmonies and some good old-fashioned guitar love. But one of the most interesting things about Dawes (above, doing “If I Wanted Someone” at last year’s Lollapalooza) is the vast array of bands and musicians with whom they’ve been associated. They’ve been compared to the Band, for their lyrics, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, for their harmonies. They’ve crisscrossed the country and teamed up with their musical brothers-in-arms, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit. And in the band’s infancy, they took part in jam sessions at Jonathan Wilson’s house with the likes of Chris Robinson, Benmont Tench and Conor Oberst. But after finding success, Dawes went on to back some of the biggest names in rock royalty, Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne and John Fogerty. Plus, at the most epic night of music The House List has ever had the privilege to witness, they inspired one of the loudest sing-alongs Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble had seen with their anthemic “When My Time Comes.” But, really, why are we telling you all this? So you don’t miss them with talented indie-folk duo Shovels & Rope tomorrow night at Terminal 5.

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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.)

 

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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

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Such a Night

May 14th, 2012

M. Ward – Webster Hall – May 11, 2012


It felt like summer had just arrived in New York City on a warm Friday night. Things were even hotter inside sold-out Webster Hall when M. Ward descended on to the stage as the “Post-War” interlude slowly grooved. Those in the crowd cheered as he dug into the older album Post-War, early into the show, and then sang along to “Poison Cup” and “Chinese Translation.” Ward was packing oldies but goodies to please longtime followers (pre–She & Him). He even delved deeper into his catalog, touching upon “Fuel for Fire” from Transistor Radio. Although the singer-songwriter let his tunes speak for him most of the show, Ward confessed, “It’s still early in the night, but you’re my favorites.”

Upon cheers he sang, “New York, I’m falling into a deep, deep depression.” But those lyrics from “Pure Joy,” the last track on his latest, A Wasteland Companion, were the opposite of what he was feeling. Chris Scruggs added the melodic reverb of the lap steel on “Clean Slate,” another off his latest. Ward’s twangier rendition of “Magic Trick” had quite a few couples dancing. And he treated the audience to a few covers, like John Fahey’s “Bean Vine Blues, No. 2,” Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” which appears on his last record, Hold Time, and Daniel Johnston’s “To Go Home.”

Rachel Cox provided backing vocals for “I Get Ideas,” and also stepped in for Zooey Deschanel on the rollicking Budweiser-selling “Never Had Nobody Like You.” There was no doubt there would be an encore and Ward sure didn’t disappoint. He unveiled a sweet take on “Such a Night,” made famous by Elvis Presley, followed by a floor-shaking cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” The latter was a special Record Store Day–release B-side. While the longtime live favorite would have been enough, Ward brought out one of his Monsters of Folk cohorts, Conor Oberst, to end the night with “Vincent O’Brien.” —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Mina K

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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.)

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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.)