Sufjan Stevens, David Byrne Duet For $5,000

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!

Sufjan Stevens & David Byrne – “Saginaw, Michigan (Live)” (MP3)