LIVE REVIEW: Volcano Choir @ Webster Hall

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Rumors of Justin Vernon forgoing Grammy-winning Bon Iver for other projects have been spreading for months. Vernon himself has fed these rumors, confessing in a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything session along with other members of Volcano Choir that, as far as Bon Iver goes, he has “no plans, not sure what I or the world needs from that perspective anymore. We’ll see. VC [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Volcano Choir] is where my heart is at these days.” Even if this does mean the death of Bon Iver, Volcano Choir’s second album, Repave, and the live performance of Volcano Choir’s catalogue are proof that as long as Justin Vernon is making music, he need not be tied down to a singular vehicle of that talent.

Volcano Choir, stitched together by members of Collection of Colonies of Bees, All Tiny Creatures and Vernon, in its first U.S. tour, brought to Webster Hall Saturday energy upheld by the sea of fans throughout the night.

Sylvan Esso opened up the concert with a startling electronic performance, mixing pounding beats with catchy lyrics. Vocalist Amelia Meath danced around her half of the stage, belting out tracks while electronic musician Nick Sanborn pounded out beats on an electronic mixer on the other half. At times, the two would take a break from expressing their own response to the music by temporarily making eye contact and dancing with each other from across the stage. At first it seemed like a (pleasantly) surprising and somewhat odd choice to open up in such a loud, energetic way, but Sylvan Esso clearly shared the same passion for music and the opportunity to emerge from a small town that Volcano Choir represents. Each is dedicated to focusing on the music and getting lost in the art.

Toward the end of their performance, Sanborn took a minute to express their gratitude to the members of Volcano Choir. “They’re going to fucking slay,” he predicted. He was right.

Volcano Choir’s own passion was clear from the moment they stepped onstage. They held the audience captivated from the first song to the encore performance. Part of this was due to a wondrous stage set up. Whether intentional or not, Repave takes a sense of a nautical theme, expressed through various lyrics as well as the album cover, a picture of The North Sea taken by Chris Arnol. The album cover was recreated by netting hung behind the band as it played, turned to shades of blue, purple and yellow with lighting. It all blended so well with the band’s sound and created an atmosphere of peace.

The band had been touring only a week before playing at Webster Hall and was set to take a break in touring for a few weeks. Collectively, they expressed their regret of the short touring time, and in almost an offering of apology and consolation, guitarist Chris Rosenau announced they would be playing “almost ever song we know” as well as several unreleased tracks that “haven’t found a home.” Surprising, considering the recent release of Repave on September 3. The new songs, including a track tentatively titled “The Agreement,” “Valleyonaire” and “Nini” were a departure from the sound of other songs. They took on a guitar-heavy, almost hard-rock sound that hasn’t been heard in previous works. Rosenau was correct in identifying them as tracks that did not have a home. Although catchy and well-played, they would not have fit in with the more mellow rock of Repave.

In familiar songs, such as “Tiderays,” single “Comerade,” “Dancepack,”Acetate,” and “Byegone,” the band filled the hall with pounding instruments and a heartfelt crooning from Vernon, who did his share of dancing to the beat and playing air drums. His excitement in touring with these other talented musicians is palpable in the energy put forth in his performance, and it seems to inspire the rest of the band as well. Although the performance was set in the mid-sized Webster Hall, the musicians exuded a presence that could command an entire arena. It was easy to get lost in the scenery, pulsing music and honest joy felt through those in the room.

The crowd rallied in cheers during the first few notes of “Still,” a remix of Vernon’s “Woods” under Bon Iver. The beefed-up version had Vernon back in his well-known falsetto, bringing feeling of nostalgia to those who have been listening to him from his beginning. But the loudest response came during “Byegone,” as attendees joined Vernon as he pumped his fist in the air, singing, “Set sail!” Regardless of the track, the band had the crowd with them the entire concert.

Partway through the concert, Vernon looked out at the packed hall and gushed, “It never gets old… It never gets old, to work really hard to produce something for a long time and have people actually give a shit about what you did.” At the very least, the live manifestation of Volcano Choir’s work proved that following Vernon and those he makes music with never gets old, either.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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