Tag Archives: Justin Vernon


Yellow Ostrich Close Out Tour Tomorrow at The Bowery Ballroom

April 3rd, 2014

Just as Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon once recorded lo-fi four-track songs in Wisconsin, Yellow Ostrich’s Alex Schaaf (vocals and guitar) did just the same while in college there. Upon relocating to New York City he made even more music, self-releasing much of it for free. But once he began recording experimental rock with the like-minded Michael Tapper (drums), they needed other musicians to flesh out their sound for live performances. Now joined by multi-instrumetnalists Jared van Fleet and Zach Rose, Yellow Ostrich (above, doing “Shades”) have sharpened their sound, and they just put out their third full-length, Cosmos (stream it below), last month. PopMatters says it’s “a well-crafted and well-produced album. It can seamlessly shift from soft floating segments to sections of sudden weight. Opening track ‘Terrors,’ along with the outro to ‘Neon Fists,’ exemplify this perfectly. With the combination of youth, great work ethic and a thirst for experimentation, future releases from Yellow Ostrich might be some of the most exciting stuff in the indie-rock world.” The band has been out on the road following the album’s release, but they return home to close their tour tomorrow night at The Bowery Ballroom.


Catch Poliça Tomorrow Night at Webster Hall

November 7th, 2013

Minneapolis’s Poliça, a psychedelic R&B offshoot of Gayngs, began when singer Channy Leanagh and producer Ryan Olson started collaborating together in the summer of 2011. Things clicked, and within a month, the two already had enough material to begin recording. So they recruited bassist Chris Bierdan and drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu, and cut Give You the Ghost, which came out early last year. How well was the album received? Well, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon said, “They’re the best band I’ve ever heard.” Their follow-up, also well-received, Shulamith (stream it below), arrived a few weeks ago. Consequence of Sound says Poliça (above, doing “Dark Star”) “push beyond their previous record through the maturity of their sexy, electronic R&B sounds united with darker lyrics and political connotations.” See them, with Marijuana Deathsquads opening, tomorrow night at Webster Hall.


Volcano Choir Deliver an Expansive, Emotive Set at Webster Hall

September 16th, 2013

Volcano Choir – Webster Hall – September 14, 2013

Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen claimed Repave was Volcano Choir’s “fun album” mere weeks before the band, a retrofitted or hard-to-distinguish analog for Bon Iver, played to a packed Webster Hall on Saturday night. Appropriately, for the alleged acoustic post-rock good times, the crowd didn’t bleed the bucolic melodies of Justin Vernon, looking more like a young professional frat party than fans of any rural music collective. Even Bon Iver and Volcano Choir, despite their humble origins, are barely recognizable as pastoral, crafting the slow jams and emotive geography of coastal elites. But if the plaid was ironic even for an unseasonably cool night in September, Vernon’s melodies never were, an expansive and emotive set that managed to deliver the pathos even for a crowd that didn’t expressly need it, but knew it would be coming.

Volcano Choir opened with the droning keyboard progression of “Tiderays.” Vernon emerged and took his place behind what looked like a pulpit, where he proceeded to preach heavily echoed vocals over the next 90 minutes. It was all something of a refraction, hard to distinguish what made this Volcano Choir and not Bon Iver as the band moved through first-album single “Island, IS” and the explosive “Comrade,” during which Vernon raised a single fist in the chorus, a trope of rebellion and underdog triumph distorted by the sold-out crowd, the excellent second album, the adoring privilege of privileged fans. The band told the audience they’d be playing almost every song they knew, including some new material that “hasn’t found a home yet.” In one case, the band agreed on the fly to call a yet-untitled song “The Agreement” after the yelling exhortations of the first few rows.

Vernon, from his perch, interstitial to the songs, explained some of the broad purpose: “It never gets old to make a record that you worked on for a really fucking long time,” finishing with “it never gets old, people giving a shit what you did.” Volcano Choir then played the night’s slowest song, “Keel.” The show was all about texture and magnification. The cloth backdrop behind Vernon and crew looked like one of those microscope pictures of the human skin that look like the moon. Volcano Choir “covered” the Bon Iver cut “Woods,” easily one of the night’s high points. The ability to make the smallest of moments important, the patience to find a slow build and a big payoff, in a small acoustic-guitar loop, all granted Volcano Choir the power to distort and make real in the same instant. “I won’t beg for you on acetate,” sang Vernon in aching echo, the best sense of making what was flat fully rendered. —Geoff Nelson


Matthew E. White Headlines The Bowery Ballroom on Monday

May 10th, 2013

Make no mistake: Matthew E. White is a musician. He’s a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger—and he even founded his own label, Spacebomb Records, which uses a house band—led by White on guitar, Cameron Ralston on bass and Pinson Chanselle on drums—for all of its work. Growing up in Virginia Beach and the Philippines, White listened to the likes of the Band, Curtis Mayfield, Brian Wilson and Stax-era R&B, and he has worked with Justin Vernon, Megafaun, the Mountain Goats and Sharon Van Etten, in addition to leading the avant-garde jazz big band Fight the Big Bull. In theory, that should really be enough for just one guy. But for Matthew E. White, it wasn’t. So last year, Spacebomb Records put out his acclaimed debut full-length, Big Inner (stream it below), reminding many of Randy Newman’s early work, thanks to White’s unique take on things. And upon the album’s release in the UK this past winter, The Guardian said it “feels like a genuine revelation.” White (above, doing “Will You Love Me” for WFUV FM) has spent the past month touring Europe, but you can see him on Monday night at The Bowery Ballroom.


Brooklyn Country Music Hits The Bowery Ballroom

February 6th, 2013

The Lone Bellow – The Bowery Ballroom – February 5, 2013

Remember how Bon Iver’s heartbreak record, For Emma, Forever Ago, became part of indie-rock lore, straight from a Wisconsin cabin into an awkward Grammy speech? Zach Williams, lead singer of the Lone Bellow, may give Justin Vernon a run for his money with his own self-titled album. Williams was encouraged by a friend to write when his wife suffered a near-paralyzing fall from a horse. And early journal entries became the foundation for songs that grace his album. Williams has said of his work, “We write songs from personal experiences in our lives. Tragedy, hope, betrayal and redemption ebb and flow throughout this record.” He and his band even went up to a cabin in upstate New York to film a video for “Two Sides of Lonely.”

With mandolinist Kanene Pipkin and guitarist Brian Elmquist, the Lone Bellow created a robust hug of harmonies around the audience of The Bowery Ballroom on a chilly Tuesday evening. The band sauntered onstage to the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Suzy,” and the audience joined in with uproarious cheers and applause as they began their set with “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional.” Williams offered “another sad country” as an introduction to “Two Sides of Lonely,” in which one onlooker yelled, “Make me cry!” A cadence of hand claps erupted for the rollicking favorite, “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.” In a playful interlude, Williams and Co. covered Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” and bits of Brian McKnight’s “Back to One.” Returning to a country croon, the Bellows continued with “Bleeding Out” and a steel-pedal accompanied “Looking for You.” Williams proposed a new song, with opening chords similar to Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” which (you guessed it) they played. It seems as though the Lone Bellow has quite the repertoire of ’90s R&B tunes.

As the end of the night neared, “Teach Me to Know” closed the set with the group’s fans singing along. For an encore, the Lone Bellows covered John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” before finishing with “The One You Should’ve Let Go,” and The Bowery Ballroom was transformed into the set of Nashville, with feet stomping and the crowd chanting: “Come on, my love / I’m not the one that you were looking for / I’m not the shoulder you should cry on / I am the one you should’ve let go.” But despite those lyrics, the Lone Bellow won’t be let go anytime soon. —Sharlene Chiu

(The Lone Bellow play the Beacon Theatre with Brandi Carlile on 3/22 and 3/23.)



Poliça Play Webster Hall Tomorrow Night

October 5th, 2012

Minneapolis’s Poliça, a psychedelic R&B offshoot of Gayngs, began when singer Channy Leanagh and producer Ryan Olson began collaborating together in the summer of 2011. Things clicked, and within a month the two already had enough material to begin recording. So they recruited bassist Chris Bierdan and drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu, and cut Give You the Ghost, which came out this past Valentine’s Day. How was the album received? Well, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon says, “They’re the best band I’ve ever heard.” And you can hear them in person when Poliça (above, doing “Dark Star” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!) play Webster Hall tomorrow night.

The Bowery Presents Live Features Yellow Ostrich

June 7th, 2012

Just as Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon once recorded lo-fi four-track songs in Wisconsin, Yellow Ostrich’s Alex Schaaf did just the same while in college there. Upon relocating to New York City he made even more music, self-releasing much of it for free. And then the band expanded in size, thanks to the addition of multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez and drummer Michael Tapper, and sonically, with the trio moving from moody solo music toward the full sound of a legitimate rock band, evidenced by their new album, Strange Land. As today’s featured band on The Bowery Presents Live, they perform one of its songs, “Marathon Runner,” in a Brooklyn set-design shop. Plus they talk about how they met, melding their influences into one sound and using music to connect with others. For more videos like this and live-streamed shows, cool performances and intimate interviews, make sure you subscribe to The Bowery Presents Live.

(Yellow Ostrich opens for Los Campesinos! at Brooklyn Bowl on 6/23.)


From Haiti to Williamsburg

January 25th, 2010

Haiti Benefit – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 23, 2010

Zach Galifianakis

Zach Galifianakis

In the wake of the earthquake that devastated the people and capital city of Haiti, individuals and organizations have responded with an outpouring of humanitarian aid. Telethons, tweets and texts have raised millions of dollars. However, a sustained effort on the part of global citizens is necessary as Haiti continues to recover and rebuild. Toward that end, The Bowery Presents and Brooklyn Vegan teamed up to assemble an incredible group of comedians and musicians for a Haiti benefit on Saturday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The full lineup consisted of Zach Galifianakis, Britt Daniel (of Spoon), Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), St. Vincent, Janeane Garofalo, Wyatt Cenac (of The Daily Show) and the live debut of John Shade. While each performer did an abbreviated set, the night featured some hilarious jokes and breathtaking songs.

Musicians and comedians alternated their sets with Leo Allen and Bobby Tisdale acting as MCs. Jokes ranged from Cenac making fun of PETA to just about every comedian ragging on Williamsburg hipsters. “This used to be a good neighborhood,” yelled Galifianakis during his show-stealing performance. The slovenly and unkempt comic kept the audience off-kilter with a barrage of absurdist one-liners. He even pulled off the difficult task of bringing satire to the night’s cause when he joked, “I was doing Haiti benefits before the earthquake.”

The musicians in attendance provided a bevy of incredibly heartfelt originals and covers. Daniel appeared with White Rabbits drummer Jamie Levinson and opened with a stripped-down, guitar version of John Lennon’s “Isolation.” His distinctive falsetto and off-the-cuff vocals also colored my favorite song on Spoon’s new album, Transference, “Who Makes Your Money.” St. Vincent followed with Jackson Browne’s “These Days” and the National’s “Mistaken for Strangers.” All stood transfixed by St. Vincent’s soft guitar work and lithe vocals. Vernon joined in for her song “The Party,” and the two collaborated on a crowd-pleasing rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” For all in attendance, the event showed an outpouring of support and a gracious display of talent. —Jared Levy

Photos courtesy of Jen Macchiarelli | www.jennylow.com