KUPS DJ Evan Welsh Reviews Mount Eerie’s performance at The Neptune on April 19th, 2017.
On most nights, a general admission ticket to The Neptune in Seattle will get you the option between balcony seats and standing room below. However, on April 19th, the floor was covered in chairs and everyone was seated. There was only anxious talk before the music began. The stage was set for Phil Elverum, the Anacortes, WA based musician behind the band The Microphones and Mount Eerie. The curtains were purple under the stage lights. A cello, a guitar, a few microphones and a few speakers were the only things on stage.
Lori Goldston, a Seattle based cellist who has worked with the likes of David Byrne, Nirvana, and Earth took the stage first. She took her seat stage left and picked up her instrument without saying a word. She played three pieces. Each of which were engrossing, beautiful, and technical works of ambience. When she finished her set, she stood, took a bow, and exited the stage, cello in hand.
We only had to wait about fifteen minutes before the lights dropped again and Phil took the stage. He stood at the microphone and thanked everyone for coming. He explained that he would be playing thirteen songs, two of them new, the other eleven, the tracks from his most recent album A Crow Looked At Me. An album on which he speaks bluntly and clearly about the passing of his wife, and the grief and emptiness that death leaves in its wake. The album serves as Phil’s open letter to his wife. And while the brutally vivid images of Phil, Geneviève, and his grief can at some points be challenging, it makes for a musical experience unlike anything else I have ever had. With the entirety of the audience aware of Phil’s intended setlist and backstory, the light plucking of guitar strings began.
It is always different hearing an album live than through headphones. The emotion and understanding that was felt listening to A Crow Looked At Me was only multiplied in seeing it performed. Seeing the emotion on Phil’s face as he recalled these stories, brought tears to my eyes, and to all those I could see around me. After every few songs Phil would pause and thank everyone again; a short respite for both audience and himself. Phil seemed aware of challenges in these particular songs, and during one of these breaks he spoke to the audience, “I am aware this is a fucked up thing we’re all doing here.”
He played for about an hour, just as he said he would at the beginning of his set. Every song bringing a new set of emotion and understanding to everyone in the audience. When he had finished his songs and the standing applause had died down, there was a palpable quiet. Normally at the end of shows there is at least some chatter from the crowd after the music has concluded. But after performance, the only appropriate response was calm contemplation. Some were still in their chairs, faces in their palms. Others were looking both upward and downward in an attempt to put together everything such an overwhelming experience gave them. Those who came in groups and couples seemed to stand and hold each other closer than when they entered the venue. And as we were all exiting to the lobby, Phil emerged from a side door. He walked out of the venue with all of us, like all of us. All of us just people, all with our own experiences of hardship and grief. The only distinguishing feature that Phil had from the crowd is that he stood on stage for an hour, and shared his soul with everyone else, and for that we were all eternally grateful. We all left The Neptune overwhelmed with the reality of life, death, and love.
It was a show unlike any other I have ever seen. It’s an album truly unlike any I have heard. While this short write up does it’s best to honor this night, I’m not sure it does or ever could. I could write endlessly in an attempt to fully describe being in the room and experiencing these songs being performed. But sometimes there simply are no words, there is just silence, feeling.
Mount Eerie’s newest record “A Crow Looked at Me” was released in March of this year.