Good Winter with Bon Iver

I’ve spent years waiting to see Bon Iver and yesterday the day finally arrived at Wembley Arena, London.

The support band was an all female indie-folk band called the Staves, who reminded me of the Indigo Girls with their acoustic sound and beautiful harmonies. I only caught the last song of their set and I really liked it so will be looking into them more. They later returned to provide stunning close harmonies on Bon Iver’s performance of ‘Stacks’.

Bon Iver took to the stage starting with the first song from the new album “Perth”. I’m amazed at how these guys can recreate the sounds from the album exactly the same, but with even more power, more depth than the records. Between the songs were little musical interludes, drones and soundscapes building from one track to the next. The first four songs were played in order from the new album, before mixing it up with songs from the first album ‘For Emma, forever ago’ and the interim ‘Bloodbank EP’.

Singer Justin Vernon started out fronting the alt-folk-rock band DeYarmond Edison who had modest success in their native Wisconsin. Their first two albums were more acoustic and straight song-based, but it’s in their unreleased EP that you can hear the beginnings of what would become Bon Iver. Sadly the band fell apart during the recordings and the EP was never officially released – ‘Epoch’ is the highlight of this set of recordings. Justin also put together an album called ‘Hazletons’ and there are some self-made home recordings floating the internet which show his evolution and experiments with the now trademark falsetto vocals.

After the dissolution of DeYarmond Edison, and having contracted mononucleosis, Justin Vernon took himself off to the woods of Wisconsin to recover – his idea of “hibernating from the world.” These three months of solitude resulted in the creation of For Emma, Forever Ago. All of his personal trouble, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss and guilt that had been stockpiled over the course of the past six years, was suddenly purged into the form of song.

His first record as Bon Iver (French for Good Winter) was titled ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ and entirely his own creation. The album was self-released in July 2007 and quickly gained attention from various music publications, and particularly popular among music bloggers.

I see Bon Iver’s second, self-titled album as the peak of his career as an artist. I previously talked about the cover of this album in this blog and his creator Gregory Euclide. The music is so organic and beautiful, with a lot of sounds that reminds me to nature and that is good to be alive, slightly akin to Sigur Ros.

I left the gig last night with an amazing feeling having loved the music and Justin’s sweet and self-effacing banter with the crowd. If they’re playing a town near you, they’re definitely worth catching.

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