If we donated $5,000, Bookeaters host John Hodgman promised the sold out Beacon crowd, Sufjan Stevens and David Byrne would perform together at the end of the night! Together for the first time! Break out your wallets!

Twenty dollars bought a hug from Dave Eggers (really)…

One girl in the audience handed over $100 in cash for the opportunity to watch The Daily Show backstage. Asking $50 ticket buyers to shell out more dough was crass, Hodgman noted, but this was a benefit after all: the money goes to help children “learn to fight.” Wait, no … “to write.” Not fight.

Did we get our duet? According to this post title, yes. But first a recap:

Aside from a handful of requests, this was the quietest audience I’ve ever witnessed at a concert. Not one person stood from his seat all night. Someone shushed someone else for coughing. Jon Stewart kicked things off at 8 PM with an America: The Book bit, and 826 Founder Dave Eggers screened a video about the writing centers and their pirate and superhero stores. John Roderick rocked solo, with an acoustic guitar and hilarious NY-themed banter, but we got only three stripped-down Long Winters tunes: “Ultimatum,” “Pushover,” “The Commander Thinks Aloud.”

Next up: Sufjan, with a necktie instead of a ballcap! Fancy pants. (While the band set up, Hodgman noted how nicely Mr. Stevens’s slacks fit.) Sufjan led the six-piece band first on banjo (“The Mistress Witch From McClure”) then piano for an especially jazzy “Jacksonville” and a less-pomp’d “Chicago” on which Katrina Kerns shined. We got “Casimir Pulaski Day” too.

Soof shared an “awwww” story recounting how he was put in Special Ed ’cause he didn’t know how to read and write when he switched to public school in third grade. A teacher, for reasons unknown to the future chamber pop hero, encouraged Sufjan to write a story. That year he wrote his first novel (about a flying elevator). He dedicated “The Dress Looks Nice on You” to the teacher.

After a brief intermission, and a short story from Sarah Vowell and surprise guest Eric Bogosian, the night’s headliner David Byrne strolled centerstage in a bright, yellow suit. The legendary rocker/author/Powerpointer surprised everyone with an “all country” (!) set, heavy on covers. And pedal steel. But it was actually pretty cool — and certainly special — especially two honky-tonked Heads cuts: “The Big Country” and “Creatures of Love.”

So did the crowd cough up enough for a $5,000 encore?

And how! We raised $15,000! So a sheepish Sufjan joined David to cover “Saginaw, Michigan” (“a song about Michigan Sufjan didn’t write,” Byrne quipped). Sorry for the poor video quality (where’s Daniel when you need him?!) but this momentous collaboration had to be recorded for posterity. By Stereogum.

Bookeaters benefits are coming to Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Ann Arbor in the weeks to come. More info here.

UPDATE: Culture Bully ripped the audio for us. Thanks Chris!

Comments (33)
  1. joe  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    i love sufjan’s ‘i peed myself’ look in the last picture.

  2. what a great time it was! that last photo is priceless. also should note that Suf played “Casimir Pulaski Day,” which was the highlight for me.

    why do people yell out requests at things like this. i mean, of course he’s going to play “Chicago,” you don’t need to yell it.

    as funny as Stewart and Vowell were, i think music def. words in straight sets.

  3. Ferris  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Get to the part where Sufjan declared that unless Jesus received another $5K, then everyone there was going to hell.

  4. The only member of Sufjan’s band I recognized was Katrina. I wasn’t sure about the rhythm section, but I don’t think I’ve seen those brass players or the violinist before. The trumpet player was especially awesome. I wonder how many of these new musicians are going to be part of the upcoming tour.

    The arrangements of Jacksonville and Chicago with Sufjan playing piano were great, and Casimir was incredible. I got the sense that tonight’s arrangements were penned especially for the event (much like the Allen Room shows earlier this year). Due in part to the sightly different instrumentation and different musicians no doubt.

  5. Very cool. Thanks for the vid.

  6. Boy, that’s a cute face Suf’s making.

  7. Sean McMahill  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Great show, if a little slowly paced. Who was Hodgman’s second banana (or should that be fiddle?) in the coonskin cap?

  8. fred  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Am I the only one who went home dissapointed? All the “words” people seemed laughably unprepared and Byrne’s attempt at country music was sort of not that awesome. Sufjan and John Rederick were both good, but the rest of the time I was fighting to keep my eyes open… and the bucket passing was indeed crass. Ah well, its all for a good cause.

  9. My boyfriend is inconsolable that he hestitated when the offer to watch the Daily Show from backstage came up. The woman who won, however, was great and bouncing up and down with excitement (I think her name was Ray? Rey?) — you forgot to mention the part where she claimed that she only had $80 on her since she gave a $20 bill to Dave Eggers already. And then the woman sitting in front of us offered to spot her the extra cash!

  10. (Oh, and obviously, she took the extra twenty.)

    And I agree with Ryan. The jazzy arrangements of Sufjan’s songs were great, as was that trumpet player.

    Here’s my photos:


  11. Mangrilla  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Is it me, or was Sufjan’s set billed as a “special” and “rare” solo set?

    I was pretty disappointed as well. I thought it was funny that for an event that supported literacy and writing, he picked a genre that probably, on the whole, has the most illiterate listeners ;). But seriously, that set was pretty ho-hum (especially one track from the percussionist’s album which was just garbled to my ears). Sufjan was fine, but showed me I was right in not buying tickets to see him before (the recordings are just better than his live shows so I don’t see a point). John Roderick was the only person I really loved. His voice is fantastic.

    Jon Stewart only reading from America, which I bought in 2004… Disappointing.

    Dave Eggars not really doing anything outside shilling for the (admittedly good) cause… Disappointing.

    Great cause, okay event, alright time.

  12. Mangrilla  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Woops, by “he” in the second paragraph, I meant Byrne… And just a joke, before everyone goes crazy

  13. Woo-hoo! People complaining about the entertainment at charity events! I love America!

  14. I thought it was an OK show. Stewart and Hodgman were great, Roderick was fine and Sufjan was good as usual. I thought Byrne’s set was just OK and the Sufjan / Byrne duet was a good tune, but nothing near when Byrne played with Arcade Fire.

  15. it was just ok.

    i expected a little more

    for a shitty cameraphone shot click my name.

  16. Jon  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    can someone please tell me the proper stereogum email address? Thank you

  17. Destin  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Sean McMahill, Hodgman’s “second banana” was Jonathan Coulton. Perhaps you’ve heard his awesome cover of “Baby Got Back,” it was something of an internet phenom a few months ago.

    As soon as I got home, I was pleased to find that the original song he played last night is also still available for free download at his web page:

    I dug the show. It was about what I’d expected. I’ve never seen Sufjan live, and thought he was amazing. Stewart and Hodgman and even (surprisingly) Roderick were hilarious. Bogosian brought a lot of extra funny to Vowell’s essay. I’d totally buy a coffee-table book of that kid Alex’s kickass collages. I didn’t love Byrne’s set, as he’s got so much excellent Heads and solo stuff he could’ve chosen from, but he’s still enthralling to watch. And the Byrne/Sufjan spaz-off at the end was definitely a unique sight to behold.

  18. Destin  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Oh yeah, and since we had to raise $5000 to get them to duet, shouldn’t $15,000 have gotten us THREE Sufjan/Byrne songs?

  19. drewo  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    I thought it was a great variety show. I was worried that the reading sections would slow things down, but the writers (and their sidekicks) played those parts for laughs, and it worked. John Roderick was very funny and entertained a crowd who, I suspect, mostly never heard of the guy. Sufjan was solid, once again varying arrangements, and, yes, it seems he has a bunch of new musicians with him. And David Byrne was exceptional. I never thought of him as a great singer, but he has a powerful voice and still has star magnetism. It was nice to hear “A Big Country” (sounding not honky tonk, but pretty much like the original recording). The encore with Sufjan (a Lefty Frizzell song) was pretty underwhelming, but overall a fun and full evening (nearly 3 hours), for a good cause (less spelling errors in blogs o’ the future).

  20. liv  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    them slacks are lookin’ good sufjan. the hair, on the other hand…oh who am i kidding that was fantastic.

  21. tammy  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    an audio recording of The Mistress Witch from McClure


  22. nick  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    so THAT’S why he wears a hat all the time.

  23. Nate  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    I turned to my friend about halfway through Byrne’s set and said, “there are a lot of confused hipsters in this room right now.” Evidently, I was right. Byrne’s set was the highlight of the show for me, far and away.

  24. Stephen  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Sufjan’s channeling Charles Nelson Reilly in that pic.

  25. jellie  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Sufjan can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
    Don’t listen to them honey, the hair was exquisite.
    The fitted shirt and tie a good look for you.
    PS, will you marry me??

  26. jellie  |   Posted on Aug 24th, 2006 0

    Sufjan can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
    Don’t listen to them honey, the hair was exquisite.
    The fitted shirt and tie a good look for you.
    PS, will you marry me??

  27. mike  |   Posted on Aug 27th, 2006 0

    quick question – i take videos with my canon sd300 camera at shows but my mac powerbook won’t transfer from the camera to computer any videos longer than 45 seconds – any thoughts? would love to get longer clips like the one above – thanks – giffman@gmail.com

  28. Hey, nice report on a very fine evening. I posted a crappy video/okay audio version of David Byrne’s first song “There stands the glass” if anyone was interested. It was a fun night.

  29. Karlikurod4

  30. Karlikurod4

  31. courtney  |   Posted on Sep 23rd, 2006 0

    he kind of looks like one of the Wiggles

  32. is the mp3 working? I would really want to listen to it.

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