Bon Iver w/The Rosebuds
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 27
Where: The Ryman
(Excerpt from the article in July 21's Scene. Read the full story here.)
The narrative of Bon Iver's ascent has been covered thoroughly, but it's worth detailing once more for the uninitiated. In late 2006, a downtrodden Justin Vernon retreated from his short-lived home of Raleigh, N.C., to his father's Wisconsin cabin to gather himself after two heart-rending breakups — one with a band composed of his best childhood friends (DeYarmond Edison), the other with a longtime girlfriend. After a bout with mono, he returned to songwriting as a means of catharsis, writing and recording For Emma, Forever Ago — Bon Iver's haunting yet joyous debut.
Nearly universal acclaim ensued once the album received adequate distribution in 2008 — thanks to Secretly Canadian — the din growing loud enough that Vernon would soon appear on the radar of hip-hop iconoclast Kanye West, who went on to sample Bon Iver and to employ him in the production of 2010's My Dark Twisted Fantasy. Once merely conceived as a home project, a reprieve from sadness, Bon Iver has all but become a household name.
Yet perhaps there's a deeper, more intangible reason that Justin Vernon is on the tip of everyone's tongues — one that can't be quantified in the war rooms of Music Row, New York City or Tinseltown. The far more interesting aspect of Vernon's success lies in what it tells us about our culture — one that is fast-paced and self-obsessed, yet loathe to wear its heart on its sleeve. Our new reality is constant posturing and image cultivation, and because we know this about ourselves, it's increasingly being defined by cynicism. These days we spend more time analyzing each other's motives than we do each other's contributions — which is anathema to the approach of Justin Vernon.
Bon Iver fills a void, as an idea and as a gorgeously wrought musical endeavor, that social media and constant invocations of "cool," in any setting, only perpetuate. This music, simple but remarkably elegant, is an antidote to all that perturbs us about our current condition, a world to get lost in alongside others equally weary of trying to keep up.