Groveling Obeisance #11: Phil Elverum

Before I reveal the interview I’ve done with Phil Elverum, I’ve decided to share with you an anecdote of epic proportions.  So read my little story and then check out the four-question and answer session, towards the bottom of the post!

The Shed and Mount Eerie

When I was a young boy, and a freshman at UMass-Amherst, I was still wet behind the ears when it came to underground rock/punk music.  I thought Sufjan Stevens was subversive and Ben Folds the best live musician around.  The smallest concert I had attended featured around a thousand people in a college auditorium.

Lucky for me, early in my undergraduate career, I stumbled across a DIY event that would permanently change the way I understood and appreciated live music.

I had listened to The Microphones “The Glow Pt. 2” quite a bit the summer before college and thought it was cool and indie and all that.  My dorm neighbor friend Alex told me the man behind that record would be playing in Palmer, MA, but under a different name, Mount Eerie.  Plus he would be playing at a mysterious venue, The Shed.

For those who never experienced the now-defunct Shed (R.I.P.), it was a tiny and cozy shed, found in a really cool guy’s back-yard in the middle of back-woods Western Massachusetts.  It may have been his mom’s house, he hosted awesome shows, and I participated in two grand happenings there before they ended their run.

The first show was Mount Eerie, Jason Anderson, Thanksgiving, and Tumble Cat Poof Poofy Poof:

What my friends and I recalled from that night, as accurately as five years allows:

  • Tumble Cat Poofy Poof was the weirdest thing I had ever seen in my life up to that point.  He played around with a recording device and tape loops and feedback and sat on the floor of the Shed and I didn’t know what to think.
  • Thanksgiving (or Adrian Orange) tried playing on the roof of The Shed, fell through, and slightly hurt himself.  I remember hearing a crash and not realizing what had happened until later on.
  • In the end, he played on a picnic table in front of the shed, I think.  He was alone with his acoustic guitar.  His damaged passion and strained voice disturbed me a little at the time, in a good way.
  • Jason and Adrian and Phil rotated between drums, guitar, and bass for the last two performances, forming a cool “all-for-one” vibe.
  • Mount Eerie presented one of the most magnificent musical-based sets I’ll ever witness.
  • I can’t remember the details but the main highlight occurred during Phil’s brilliant song “Voice In Headphones.  He requested the lights turned off and the crowd chant the lines: “It’s not meant to be a strife, It’s not meant to be a struggle uphill.”
  • After standing in the dark, for ten minutes, and feeling those words sink into my body, I realized everything was about to change.
  • Jason Anderson ended the night with one of his hilarious and charismatic Springsteen-esque sessions, complete with a Dave Matthews Band cover and loads of requests.

What made the night more special than I realized at the time was the amount of cool, genuinely nice people who had participated in the evening’s affairs.  It was pretty remarkable a few people had allowed strangers to infiltrate their backyard, for the sake of a night of magical live music.   I hope one day to build a space like that in my backyard and see what weird little happenings will occur.
Any other stories from that night at The Shed PLEASE SHARE!

I recently exchanged a few emails with Mr. Phil Elverum aka Mount Eerie and the artist formerly known as The Microphones:

1.  Why do you make music?

Phil Elverum: Usually it’s because I want to try out a recording idea I have for a new atmosphere/sound world.  It becomes “music” only later on in the experimentation.  It starts with vague tone ideas.

2.  What records, off the top of your head, greatly changed the way you thought about music?

PE: Eric’s Trip “Love Tara” was the first record I heard that was clearly home-recorded.  That changed everything.  It was raw and so much more real than anything I’d ever heard.  Plus it was awesome and loud and beautiful.  The loud rock songs were that much more powerful than something that had been recorded “perfectly” because I could hear the players in a room making it, I could hear into the background.

3.  Where is your favorite place to play?

PE: In a huge echoey room.  Maybe a cathedral or a cavern.

4.  Would you rather be able to talk to animals or have the ability to speak any human language?

PE: Animals.

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