Smile Politely

Bon Iver Tonight at The Canopy Club

There are many notable things about Bon Iver. The first is that the band name is purposefully misspelled, according to the press kit, and is pronounced “bohn eevair;” I’m not sure this is the technical language of pronunciation, but those with even menial training in French can recognize this as a version of the French for “good winter.” The second thing is that Bon Iver is the stage name for Justin Vernon, who sometimes has a couple of bandmates in tow despite the fact that he wrote and recorded the brilliant album For Emma, Forever Ago in literal isolation in the woods of northwestern Wisconsin. (For Emma was self-released in 2007 and picked up by Jagjaguwar for its February 2008 wide release.) Tonight, Vernon will play a sort folk music for you.

There is an airiness about Bon Iver’s music that sets the songs from For Emma apart from other folk—be it “indie,” where Bon Iver is often lumped, or generally otherwise. “Good winter,” quite literally, is what the band sounds like if you can imagine it: the desolate folk music hosts a sparsity and falsettoes (which do, yes, recall Iron & Wine, if only for a second) before leading you into a proverbial splendor of emotion. Vernon’s vocal poles — that is, his highs and lows, louds and softs — are sharp in the live setting, an area where the casual listener might be resistant to expect anything. Further, the fact that Bon Iver tours as a three-piece helps to fill these songs out in a way a man with a guitar typically can’t. This allows Vernon to show his chops on the guitar a bit more than you might expect, brings out that winter feeling a bit more, facilitates the basic and fundamental emotions mined in Bon Iver’s songs. Simply put, the record is quiet, but don’t assume the show will lull you to sleep: so long as the people at the bar, whose voices are somehow always louder than anyone else’s, don’t break your concentration you’ll be mesmerized.

Take heed! The velocity with which Bon Iver’s subtle sounds of loneliness are being heralded should strengthen our suggestion to see him now, while you can still catch them in smaller places (though C-U isn’t so far from Vernon’s home of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, there’s no guarantee anyone will ever come back). Bon Iver is music meant for intimate surroundings. Whether it needs these surroundings is for someone else to say — but you’d hate to find out the hard way, wouldn’t you?

Also of note is that Collections of Colonies of Bees opens the show. This band, risen from the ashes of Pele, provides a strangely appropriate match, though CoCoB is fall from subtle, leaning more toward huge glitchy harmony instead of man-with-guitar quiet. Their new record, Birds, is gorgeous, full of four tracks all titled “Flocks” (this comes as no surprise, as their last album, H — released on our own Polyvinyl Records — boasted nine songs, all titled “Fun,” followed by a finale called “Funeral”). Odd? Yes, but we like odd. Be on the lookout for intermingling between these two acts, as well: the two reportedly have a collaborative effort of some sort due out later in 2008.

Download Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” here, and the music video for “Wolves” here.

Cover is $8 very well spent for this 7:00 p.m. show, and you have to be 18 to get in. The Canopy Club is located at 708 S. Goodwin Ave. in Urbana.

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