Secretly, I was hoping Mount Eerie would play “Lost Wisdom” of their 2009 album Wind’s Poem. But given the release of two stellar new albums, Clear Moon a short few months ago and then Ocean Roar just last week, I knew the chances were slim. Besides, within the two new releases are plenty of new greats to look forward to. I was lucky enough to catch Phil Elverum, the mastermind behind Mount Eerie (formerly known as Microphones) perform at The Heart of Anacortes last weekend.
Elverum is a funny guy. He knows how to make the audience smile, and he does it in typical indie star fashion: uncertainty and slight awkwardness.
He noted that whenever he describes what these songs are about — i.e. the wilderness in and around Anacortes, WA — he feels strange because few who attend his shows elsewhere have ever been to his hometown. Then he noted that it was equally strange to describe them while performing there; I can’t describe to you the spring sunset, because it’s right over there (he points to the West).
Contrary to his between-song banter, Elverum’s music is not what one would typically deem funny. There’s a dark, spacial current to it that he plays well — swarming noise at loud volumes mixed with moments of subtle, soft melodies. And within both he lends his soft vocals and lyrical poetry.
I’ve always seen Elverum’s music as being very naturesque, and darkly so. You can most certainly see it in his recent video for The Place Lives, the second track on Clear Moon. And true to this concept, The Heart of Anacortes provided hints of Mount Eerie’s signature theme.
Down and to my right was Karl Blau, in front of me my buddy Brett and his son Arlis, and behind and to the left were a mixed array of folk from known locals in the Anacortes DIY music scene (both musicians and mere concert-goers) and randoms who happened to stumble upon an outdoor show in downtown Anacortes. But beyond the people, there was the blue sky with light, wispy clouds; there was an occasional bird, and at one point a flock; there was (you couldn’t quite smell it, but it seemed present nonetheless) a hint of the sea. These elements drew audience attention as much as Mount Eerie.
I think that’s what makes Elverum’s music so great: it puts you in your place, makes you more aware of your surroundings. And through all the turmoil that the noise creates audibly, it creates within you a sort of peace and belonging (such a brilliant Mount Eerie trait!) that you just don’t get out of most music.
And here I am, still experiencing the rush from last night’s show (as I pen this, it’s Sunday morning at just about 9am; the show ended 13 hours ago), still gushing about the sky and the birds that few by, still at peace from the experience.
Afterward, Brett noted that it was one of the best performances he’d seen from Elverum and Mount Eerie. While he’s seen quite a few more shows than I, couldn’t help but agree. As Mount Eerie began the last song, I snapped a photo of the sky; I don’t know why I did it, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Check out a track from each of Mount Eerie’s 2012 LPs, Clear Moon and Ocean Roar. Both songs were played that night.
Here’s “The Place I Live” off Clear Moon:
And here’s “Pale Lights” off Ocean Roar:
The Heart of Anacortes not only acted somewhat as a record release show for Ocean Roar (Elverum joked about this), the show also kicked off a six-week, cross-country tour. Dates on Elverum’s site.