Two nights ago I got back from my first-ever concert (the first one that I’ve wanted to go to, anyway). As it turns out, it was for Sufjan Stevens, one of my favorite musicians. What an experience that was. I’ve spoken about him a couple times in Brain Sprinkles so I won’t dedicate another section to him, but I want to speak briefly about what the concert was like.
First of all, it was at Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, which is a small venue with chairs, which was the perfect way to take in a concert mainly consisting of solo acoustic numbers. Sufjan played the entirety of Carrie & Lowell. He started shaky with Death with Dignity. He missed a lyric and was flat with a couple falsetto notes, but that made it only that much more real and personal. Not long into his performance, he was on track and blowing me away. His stringed instrument game is ridiculously strong. Seriously. To start a concert playing a complicated guitar riff behind falsetto singing with no backup, especially when the topic is so sensitive and intimate, cannot be an easy task. Major props to Sufjan for managing to pull off such a delicate album in a live venue.
It wasn’t all Sufjan doing quiet solo stuff, either. Performances switched between him alone and backup from his ridiculously talented band. When they got to Fourth of July, one of my favorite songs from the album, I was dumbfounded. They ended the song with a crescendo of “We’re all gonna die” accented with ridiculous drums, synth, and guitar. It was spectacular. I thought it was the highlight of Sufjan’s performance until they got to the end of his set with Blue Bucket of Gold. Spinning disco balls and flashing lights accelerated with the music until my very core was shaking with the volume and intensity of the music. When the band reached its peak, I wondered how they’d get out of the mess they’d created, but they brought it back down together and ended the song. It was phenomenal.
The audience gave Sufjan a five-minute standing ovation, four minutes of which Sufjan wasn’t on stage to hear. He eventually came back out, much to my delight, and played even more songs, including Chicago, and that’s how the concert ended.
I know Sufjan’s a genius. I wish I had half his creative power. Going into the show, I was worried Sufjan would be robotic, play his songs, and leave. I’ve heard stories about stuck-up artists who only tour for the money. My irrational fears were alleviated almost immediately. Sufjan was lighthearted, humble, and even funny throughout his performance. I can’t wait to see him again.
Anyway, rant over. Enjoy this week’s post.
Creativity is one of the most important things a human being can express. It’s good for our brains, our hearts, and our souls. It allows people to explore themselves and others in a deep way, something introspection and discussion can’t always do. When consuming others’ creative works, you’re getting a piece of who they are as a person, whether they wanted or intended that or not.
Creativity allows us to function as a society. We’re not merely surviving—we’re living, hour to hour and day to day. How we spend our time digesting others’ creative works—whether that’s a movie, a novel, or a collection of poems—is important to how we grow as people and a community of human beings. I hope reading about the creative content I enjoy (or don’t) gets your creative juices flowing and inspires you to make something great and uniquely your own. At the very least maybe you’ll discover something new you might be interested in.
Willow Creek is another found footage horror film, but I still enjoyed it. It follows a guy and his girlfriend as they quest for Bigfoot in Willow Creek, which is close to where the original “real” Bigfoot footage was shot decades ago. There’s a lot of slow set up, but once the protagonists get to the forest, things get creepy. Willow Creek plays on viewers’ imaginations, making you fear what you can’t see. There’s a point in the film where the camera focuses on the protagonists’ faces as they cower in their tent in the middle of the night. It goes for 20 minutes straight, but the sound design, acting, and pace are so on point that the scene—which makes up a fifth of the movie—works really well. You don’t see movies do that kind of stuff very often, but when it’s pulled off, it’s pretty great to witness.
I can’t believe I haven’t written about ∆ (pronounced “alt-J” for the key command it takes to make the symbol on a Mac) before. They’re one of my favorite bands, but it’s really hard to describe their sound. It’s easy to call them unique, but they’re unique in a unique way. Really, their music speaks for itself. Their sophomore album, This is All Yours, dropped last year, and I just got around to it now. I thought their debut album was great, but ∆ has mastered their own style, and it’s apparent in nearly every song in This is All Yours. What I love besides ∆‘s hypnotic sound is the complex lyrics masquerading as nonsense. Some of their lyrics sound like random free verse used primarily to add an additional instrument to the mix, but their songs talk about deep subjects. Check out Nara, Hunger of the Pine, and Bloodflood Pt. II from This is All Yours and Breezeblocks and Dissolve Me from An Awesome Wave.