It's hard to follow up such a bolus of music that ACL provides all at once. It's like eating a Thanksgiving dinner, three days in a row, and then going out for a snack a little while later. Be that as it may, the much-blogged and much-loved artist known as John Vanderslice was coming to Durham and I was bound and determined I wasn't going to miss him. I was literally shocked when I found out that he was playing at Duke Coffeehouse, a student-run venture that serves no alcohol, and will allow maybe 200 people inside, only if they don't breathe or move around so much. The number is probably closer to 175 or less. So yeah, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to see an artist of such big renown in a small intimate venue.
Bishop Allen opened up the night with a really great set. Drawing most recently from their stellar release The Broken String they really got the crowd's blood flowing with songs such as "Click, Click, Click, Click", "Flight 180" and "Rain". The touring version of the band I saw was a sausage party. Much to my dismay, this cutie did not come with the piano. But no matter, these boys rocked, and put on a very energetic set to prime our ears for JV.
John Vanderslice opened with my favorite song from the new record: "Kookaburra". I have grown to really embrace this song and all its metaphors for that fateful day in September, 2001. You know the one. Vanderslice has captured an emotional time-capsule from those events in the envelope of not one, but two albums. Other songs that speak openly of these events "Exodus Damage" and "Trance Manual" were also in tonight's set.
The aforementioned "Exodus Damage" is just as powerful today as it was two years ago. Consider the lyrics:
So you hope that one personThere's loads of truth in its simplicity.
Could solve everything
And for me, that's you
Sometimes that dream
Is a sad delusion
But sometimes it's true
Hear for yourself: John Vanderslice —
At the close of the show, JV with acoustic guitar in hand, along with entire band, left the stage and brought the music to center of the audience. He himself stood on a coffee table next to me, and I couldn't resist firing off a couple of shots with the digicam. He's an intense performer, as illustrated here.
After the show, he was available to chat at the merch table and was amiably greeting fans and signing records. It was an intimate venue, and an intimate show, which I greatly appreciated after coming off of ACL. It had a house-concert feel to it, and I was very glad to be there. I only hope John Vanderslice makes his way back in town sooner than later.
For more 'Slice:
check out the video performance of "Kookaburra" courtesy of JV and Stereogum.