Friday, September 23, 2011


       Although he has played Los Angeles countless times, Friday night was the first
time folk-hero, Conor Oberst, had set foot in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. “Its
pretty cool that you get all these free shows after your dead here!” He exclaimed.
“Other cemeteries just have some guy with an acoustic guitar and a six-pack of Sparks.”
Preceded by Kurt Vile and his Violators, Oberst’s Bright Eyes (Whose other regular
members include Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Walcott) brought everything they had to
prove they are still high amongst the folk-rock living (well, almost everything.)

       The music began at dusk with the blending colors of the setting sun providing the
perfect ambience for singer/guitarist Kurt Vile to display his brand of grungy heartland
rock. It was obvious from the crowd’s response that he was no stranger to their
anticipating ears. Pushing his voice through a dirty curtain of shoulder-length hair,
Kurt’s earnest performance proved to be anything but grave.

       When the sun had finally set, Bright Eyes shone out on stage to embark on a hit-
filled evening that would ignite the hearts of every listener, newbie and addict alike.
No introduction was needed as the opening chords to the ‘Cassadega’ favorite, “Four
Wind’s” began to pulsate through the audience and appropriately so – “Your class, your
cast, your country, sect, your name or your tribe/there’s people always dying tryin’ to
keep ‘em alive/there’s body’s decomposing in containers tonight…”
       The bodies of the living then lifted up a cheer as the band reprised another time-
honored favorite, “Bowl Of Oranges”. One thing about the Bright Eyes live experience
is the lyrics never seem to come out quite the way you remember. Conor Oberst takes
liberties with his own lyrics, changing them to fit the mood. This may prove frustrating
to those who wish to sing along, but it adds a surreal element to each song almost as if
they were written for you just for that moment.

       The theme of the night seemed to be ‘crowd-pleasers’; Bright Eyes didn’t stray too
much from their songs that garnish the most response, and there were no covers. They
did however reach back as far as 2000’s ‘Fevers And Mirrors’ for “The Calendar Hung
Itself”, which gave a sense of satisfaction to those who have been following them since
the early Saddle Creek days. Each song however, no matter how familiar, was given its
own distinct flavor amid the twilight sounds echoing through the graveyard. Evident was
the fact that the band has not lost touch with these gems, but continues to fashion and
continually re-create the passion with which they were written over the years. What’s
more, they (especially Conor) seemed to be actually having fun with every chord and
phrase. When it came time to play the single, “Shell Games” from their most recent
record, “The People’s Key”, Conor repeated the opening line six times. “I took the
fireworks and the vanity…I took the fireworks and the vanity…ect” feigning mistakes
behind a mischievous smile before finally nodding to Nate Walcott and rolling into the
rest of the song.

       Under that starlit canopy that covered Hollywood’s dead, Conor connected to the
audience with a subtle maturity and longing. A vulnerability that shows the relationship
with the music of Bright Eyes goes both ways; the anger, the passion, and the energy
of his youth no longer antagonistic, but empathetic. At one point he fell off stage as he over-out-stretched himself trying to touch a fan who was reaching up to him. When he
recovered back on stage, he ended the set solo, sitting down at the elephant’s teeth to play
the mournful ballad about death and beyond, ‘Ladder Song’.

       Of course after exiting the stage, the rumble for an encore began to emerge and the
crowd began to scream Conor’s name. When the band reappeared Conor turned to
drummer Scott McPherson, “Scotty, you got a god-damn tympani roll for us?” The
audience’s response of delight was almost deafening. Bright Eyes then pounded out
the ten-minute “Lets Not Shit Ourselves” and then transitioned into march-worthy
anthem, “Road To Joy”. Anyone following Bright Eye’s tours from the past year was
prepared for the concerts closer “One For You, One For Me” which is also the closing
song on “The People’s Key”. What they may not have been prepared for was Connor
entering the crowd to touch as many of his fans as possible. “The only righteous thing
we can do is take care of each other” he pleaded, as he was simultaneously flooded with
those reaching out to him, “We must coexist!” And coexist they did as he sang the entire
song mingling with the audience, crowd surfing at the end!

       It was an emotional night for all, especially Connor who expressed his deep gratitude
to his entourage of band mates and especially his family of fans. Rumors exist that
Bright Eyes may not release another record, but regardless, one thing is certain, their
music is still very much alive and there is no sign of it ever getting buried.

*Fun Moments*

- After “Hot Knives” somebody threw a letter on stage. Conor responded to the crowd’s
plea to ‘read it out loud’ saying coyly “That’s bound to embarrass one of us!”

- A girl yelled out “Conor I will have your babies! You don’t even have to pay child

- When introducing the members of his touring band, Connor faked apologies to Dr
Dre, Brian Eno, Danger Mouse, and others before hailing Mike Mogis as ‘The greatest
fucking record producer ever!’




Four Winds
Bowl Of Oranges
Old Soul Song
Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
Jejune Stars
Land Locked Blues
Lover I Don’t Have To Love
Shell Games
Approximate Sunlight
Arc Of Time (Time Code)
Cartoon Blues
Hot Knives
Poison Oak
Another Travelin’ Song
The Calendar Hung Itself
I Believe In Symmetry
Ladder Song

Lets Not Shit Ourselves
Road To Joy
One For You, One For Me

Sorry every other beer. Sierra Nevada tumbler brown wins. 

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this was one of the best nights of my life. Thanks for asking.

    Wonderful photographer, amazing writer.