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The one time that I had the opportunity to see Bon Iver, I felt completely lost. It was just so devastatingly beautiful; it didn’t feel right to just turn back to normal life without tracing everything over to make sense of it. Usually, I hate generalizing and connecting bands back to another because of a common member, but it seems almost impossible not to discuss Volcano Choir without bringing up a little Bon Iver. Both bands in which Justin Vernon contributes vocals have extremely similar elements with the haunting light tones, reflective lyrics, and the way that they leave you completely dumbfounded at the end of a performance.
Every attendee at The Paradise for Volcano Choir was more than a fan. Every word echoed through the crowd and although they were not completely silent for some of the softer songs, their full attention was there, it was just shown in other ways. Vernon has said that Volcano Choir gives him more of a “rock star” feeling which could be because he has a little more freedom to interact and move around. People seemed to derive more giddy energy from it and raise their arms as if there was a wailing guitar solo to come. Although that guitar solo did not come, these fans saw what was to come worth just as much anticipation, complete raw emotion.
“Dancepack” was one of the standout tracks performed of the band’s newest album, Repave. It felt especially big with the alternating synth and piano as the rhythm pounded on. Even though the lyrics are already thought out, it felt as though the lyrics were just a conversation thought up just then, taking their time to be pulled together as the instrumentals pushed it along. It was “Alaskans” that really made a mark in this way. The repetition felt natural in a process of speaking of something so fragile. Another aspect of “Alaskans” that I held so special was the way in which the audience translated it into something of higher energy. The recording is so gentle, but as people looked to the ceiling and repeated, “Behave, behave, behave”, it turned into something of a melancholy anthem. The intimacy of the show was built upon the dedication of everyone, giving their all to share the lyrics they find so precious.
That night, the Paradise got to here some songs that are neither found on Unmap or Repave as well as the favorites. Just as much respect and excitement was given for the rarities like “Blue Ni Ni”. The song let people see how well each instrument is able to converse throughout the band, each layering on top of the other while playing something completely different, but it was not long before the favorite song (or seemed to be based on the occasional request yelled out), “Still” was begun with voice effects and synth.
The setlist might not have included everything from both of the band’s albums, but it was more than that. It felt thoughtfully planned out, moving one song to another seamlessly. Sometimes I find that a setlist is thrown together, just making sure that everything that can be played will be played to keep people satisfied, but I felt as though the band played what they found to be their favorite to play, or at least they made it look that way. In the end, this is more enjoyable to experience and something to be valued. When the musicians truly feel what they are trying to convey through the music, something devastatingly beautiful is made, and we are left trying to make sense of it.