By Amrit Singh
The In The Future, Forever Ago tour (not its official name, but it should be) made a pit stop at Bowery Ballroom on a fittingly freezing and snowy-sidewalked night this past Friday. The show was a sellout before Black Mountain even had the chance to give a national late-night TV audience a contact “Stormy High” on Conan the night before. Compared to the next night’s show (Mag Fields @ Town Hall, pics soon) this wasn’t one for critical thinking. And I mean that in the best way possible. As in I thought I already knew what to expect from Bon Iver’s set and Justin’s voice (it left an impression last year), but that didn’t stop his heart-piercing falsetto from giving me the chills, on tunes that aren’t even my favorites from the album (“Wolves” and “Skinny Love” were, again, the live gems; on record I’m a “Flume” and “Lump Sum” kinda guy). The wind-whipping moans on For Emma, Forever Ago probably won’t ever come across on stage, or at least not without loops, triggers, laptops, or a choir, and yet for all its radiant and icy charms, For Emma doesn’t do Justin’s vocals justice. For that, you need to see him on a stage, with a guitar, dripping with humility (responding to applause after introducing a song by title: “Do you know how fucked up it is that I wrote a song and people in New York City know it? Do you know how fucked up that is?”). He’s pretty good, that Bon Iver.
My friend Brandon (no relation) came with and hadn’t yet heard Black Mountain. He asked for a description, and after hitting the requisite Sabbath touch point and detailing the Blood Meridian/Pink Mountaintops/Lightning Dust side-project rundown, I teased our premature rave:
“They sound like the ’70s came to your school, threw you against your locker, and then took you to a graveyard and fed you bonghits.” The kind of stuff Freaks like Daniel Desario and Nick Andopolis would get high to. Of course that doesn’t account for gorgeous reprieves like “Stay Free” — or maybe it does — but after the show, he tended to agree. And like Bon Iver, there was no thinking through this set: just slight but reflexive headbanging, body nodding, and feeling like you were in a musky den with shag carpets, lava lamps, and smoke billows of questionable origin in the air (in fairness, the crowd made it so that last part didn’t require imagination). I love In The Future, and still I wasn’t expecting the new live show to be so visceral. Fun game for your next BM evening: just imagine the audience’s faces when they opened for Coldplay those years back, and then explain when folks ask why you’re giggling.
Ready for more pics than you need?