I’m in love with your honor / I’m in love with your cheeks

[Originally posted 8/4/11]

Aside from AthFest (and barely getting into the mind-blowing Reptar show at the 40 Watt), this summer’s concert season has been pretty slow for me up until now. It’s these few weeks in late summer 2011 that might hold some of the best shows of my life. First there was Bon Iver in Atlanta, which I’ll elaborate on in a minute. Then in a week, I’ll be in Toronto for Jeff Mangum–for not just one, but two nights. I really can’t say enough about how privileged I feel to be experiencing that. And I’ve been needing a good getaway to somewhere new this summer. I’ve just felt a bit stuck and stagnant. Anyway, I’ll have a more full report when I get back home.

For Emma, Forever Ago is one of those records that hit me hard upon first listen, but it definitely took its time to envelop a particular moment for me. While it’s definitely the perfect soundtrack to a snow day, I can’t disconnect it from last summer, when I grew to mutually fall in love with it and with someone special. I love unusual juxtapositions in music, and that record has its own that I’ve imposed on it–it sounds like some imaginary season to me; a warm, carefree, snowy summer of love. This summer, Justin Vernon and crew released Bon Iver, Bon Iver, with a much grander and orchestrated approach. It’s garnered a lot of praise and a little bit of flack; personally, I don’t think it’s better than the first album, but I came to appreciate the songs and the band a lot more when I saw them at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre last month.

After seeing them live, I’ll never again refer to Bon Iver as “he.” The first album may have been Justin’s thing, but Bon Iver is a full-fledged band now, and better for it. The band really shines on the new tunes as well as the old ones. The show opener “Perth” was excellent proof of this, as the same sound that’s present in that track on the album–sonically large and full of distance–was replicated live. The two Blood Bank EP songs they played–the title track and “Beach Baby”–might have emerged as my favorite moments of the show, as they were even better live. And of course, the older songs were wonderful to hear live for the first time. Particularly during those songs, I was surprised at what a well-behaved crowd was present that night. Clearly they understood the importance of silence in those songs, because you could hear a beer pop open from across the auditorium.

As they closed with “Skinny Love,” it was clear that we had all just experienced something that truly deserves to be called awesome, and clear that Bon Iver has grown out of that romantic vision of a lone man writing songs in a cabin. It was never supposed to last forever.

Thankfully, YouTube user MetabolicalFor recorded the entire show that night, and it’s probably the best audience recording I’ve ever seen or heard. After watching it, I’m honestly having trouble believing I was there. Here’s “Blood Bank,” one of my favorites from that night:

…when you’re ready

There comes a time, usually after you graduate from college, when you realize that institutions are mostly talk. They have their benefits, but because they’re expected to serve the masses, they don’t do much for the individual. For example, I don’t regret college at all–some of the best years of my life; amazing experiences, and I learned a lot–but I can’t say I’ve put much of it into practice in the past few years. I can thank that master’s degree for a job that pays me little more than the average associate’s degree holder. Good teaching jobs are scarce; the theory that there would be plenty of openings due to baby boomers retiring fell through when the economy fell through. When it comes to cuts, education is at the top of the chopping block, and it’s having an adverse effect on everyone connected to the system. (Except for maybe those at the top.)

I’m starting to come to the conclusion that I can’t rely on institutions to provide everything. I don’t particularly know what I’m going to do for a job next year, but that’s been the story for the past few years. I got the most enjoyment when I was on my own, subbing, tutoring (or trying to get that off the ground), and doing some temp work. It could only last a year; I was living mostly off of my teaching salary from the previous year, and I had no health insurance, but work never stressed me out, I didn’t really have to answer to anybody, and I loved that sense of freedom. Who says 8-5 Monday-Friday is the only way?

I want this to be the year when I really take my career, or whatever you wish to call it, into my own hands. I want to experience a different kind of work, and I want to do it on my own terms. Because someday, I want to travel. I want to do things that people who work regular, ho-hum jobs can’t do. And I really believe I can. Moving to Athens was a gutsy move for me…when I signed my lease, I wasn’t totally sure that I made the cut for UGA’s MSW program because my application was late (not my fault, long story), and sure enough, I didn’t. I couldn’t find a teaching job, either. But I made things work for me, and I can do that again.

Uncertainty has been the overarching theme of the past three years. It was uncomfortable at first, but I’m used to it now. I’m kind of embracing it. I’m not afraid of change like I once was. It’s change that has done the most good for me these past few years.

In other news, I’ll be taking a trip to Toronto this summer–my first visit to the Great White North–to see (and it’s surreal that I’m even saying this) Jeff Mangum play two nights. I’ve never been this excited for a musical event. To even refer to it as a “show” seems trivializing. It’s appropriate that he’s playing in a church, because this will be spiritual. These will be the first two dates on his summer/fall tour later this year, so that makes it extra special. I had given up hope on ever hearing the man play; I had missed him in NMH’s glory days, when I was too busy listening to Rick Dees’ Weekly Top 40. I don’t know what the return means, but the fact that he’s making any sort of scheduled public appearance is more than I’ve dreamed for.

I figured I’d end on a musical note; thanks for suffering through some personal stuff if you cared to read this. Here’s an early rendition of my all-time favorite song: