A truly curious heterosexual energy in London’s Victoria Park last night, as All Points East headliner Bon Iver performed their headline slot before a swaying audience of tens of thousands.
’At least two thirds of these people are sensitive straight guys,’ I silently speculated.
I was fascinated.
Indeed, at nightfall, as the crowd hummed-sang along to Justin Vernon’s falsetto – hauntingly beautiful, emanating from an intensely unruly beard – I saw three men huddle together. Their shoulders juddered as if they were weeping.
On closer inspection, I realized the one in the middle was, in fact, urinating. The other two were shielding the view from onlookers.
They weren’t crying, but physically shaking with laughter.
Just Justin and a piano
Still, Bon Iver’s delicate energy cast its spell on most of the audience.
During moments of sparsity on the lower key tracks – of which, of course, there are many – you could almost hear a pin drop. Or rather, every isolated beat and string on any number of flawless songs. My favorite? Perth.
At such points, I’d turn to see if the crowd was disengaged. (There’s nothing more awkward than bored, static gig-goers, is there?) They weren’t. They were enthralled.
Still, I’m personally unconvinced Bon Iver are right for such a setting. l wish to consume such music as intimately as possible – just me, Justin and a piano will do fine, thanks.
That’s not to say Just and his bandmates didn’t bring the drama. Drummer S. Carey was feverish throughout, and saxophonist Michael Lewis in a romantic trance. Straights whooped with delight.
During climactic moments, songs hit you full blast – evidently, sound issues plaguing the festival elsewhere evaded me. It was thrilling, if a departure from the classic Bon Iver headphones experience.
Lastly, I’m a little over Justin’s vocal trickery – modification, layered digital harmonies – which isn’t quite as elegant through ginormous speakers as you’d hope. I’m not going to lie: I thought of Cher. Then again, what’s new?
Crazy for Chris
There was drama and then some at Christine and the Queens headline slot the weekend before. Plus, quite a different crowd.
Namely, lots and lots of sprightly, outrageously dressed young LGBTIs, bobbing up and down like excitable bunnies. Leading the pack was Chris herself, energy boundless, acing every complex dance routine and physically leaping around the stage.
Her look, meanwhile, was fabulously androgynous. I find her masculine energy (or ‘arrogance’ as my friend said – and meant as a compliment) totally compelling. Never more so than when stalking the stage, like many a guy I’ve lusted over on the dancefloor.
My favorite thing about her, though, is that celestial voice. It pierced last weekend’s damp air with crystal clear clarity. Forgive me if this is reductive, but it makes me think of sirens and princesses. (Could a mythical/magical theme work for the next album campaign?).
To hear it on Saint Claude – for my money one of the most divine songs of the decade – was a privilege. To hear the story of what inspired it – Christine witnessing a homophobic attack and later wishing to atone for not helping – powerfully moving.
A fantastic outing for the star’s first-ever headline festival slot.