09 August 2005

Upon Further Review…


It's been nearly two weeks since Sufjan Stevens braved the sweat shop currently known as Lo-Fi Cafe in SLC (more on that later), and I think I'm finally ready to discuss the performance.

Usually, an introduction like that is cause for apprehension. In the case of Sufjan and his band of Illinoisemakers, however, it's simply an indication of their brilliance. For 12 days, I've been thinking through the show. Replaying it backward and forward in my memory. Waiting hopelessly for bootlegged tracks to appear on scattered blogs. Downloading the entire next-day show in Denver (welcometothem!dwest). Rewatching video footage from a show in San Francisco (youaintnopicasso). And, obviously, wishing I had tickets to any number of Sufjan's soldout shows--five of 'em!--in NYC later this month.

The truth is, I think Sufjan's live show has cured me of the obsession so well chronicled on this very blog (and by hundreds of other fanboys/girls on their respective webspots). Obsession has been replace with pure admiration. Sufjan Stevens is an artist. And that's the best I can probably do to review his act. So while I ramble on for a couple thousand words, just remember this: To call him a songwriter or a musician or a historian or a storyteller just doesn't cut it; Sufjan is an artist, period.

With the day-time, outdoor highs near 100°F, the crowd was already glistening by the time the doors opened an hour late. And when the smoke-and-shadows voiced Liz Janes hit the stage, the Lo-Fi Cafe was practically packed and humidity was climbing by the second. Lo-Fi is a dump. An out-and-out pig sty. It's small. It's shabby. And it lacks any form of ventilation. Two lonely ceiling fans fight the impossible multiplication of body heat and three-digit temps. Let's leave it at this: by the time Ms. Janes finished her five song set, she was soaked. And so was I. And not in a slightly-sexy, misted with a kiss of rain sort of way. We're talking just plain old sweaty. Somehow, Liz Janes delivered and soothed, closing with a mindboggling, ukulele-crushing version of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Following some mandatory gear shifts and some pleasant costume changes--you may or may not know that Sufjan and his crew sport blazing Illinois cheerleader outfits, men in tees and orange sweatpants, women in tees, orange skirts and navy leggings--astute fans could catch Sufjan and crew in the back corner of the venue, huddled and cheering. Sufjan Stevens and the Illinoisemakers were working themselves into a frenzy, bouncing and shaking their pompoms (yes, pompoms). In seconds, they stormed the stage and launched into the thematic "Fifty States Song" (you can hear a snippet at www.sufjan.com).

This all sounds too gimmicky, too press-hungry. But the thrill of Sufjan is his earnestness, his realism. Sufjan Stevens has not undertaken the fifty albums for fifty states as some sort of trick, but as a celebration of each piece of the Union. All you need is to hear Sufjan sing the beautifully harrowing "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." and you know that this is serious stuff. Recounting the horror of serial killings, Sufjan employs a falsetto that simply cannot be described. His final declaration, "and on my best behavior/I am really just like him" had me proclaiming that it was sweat rolling down my cheekÂ…and hoping that standers-by would believe it.

And did I mention the intermittent cheers? Raising pompoms and sporting well-choreographed hand signals, the Illinoisemakers spouted literate shout-outs in relation to a number of songs. The prize-winner: Metropolis, in which Sufjan managed to include references to Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot's character from "Perfect Strangers") and Webster Papadapolis (Emmanuel Lewis's character from "Webster"). Outstanding.

So when Suf and the eight-strong symphonic players launched into Come on Feel the Illinoise (the album's title track), I could hardly contain my awe. Sufjan explored the piano--nearly matching the Stevie-Wonder-esque chops he showcased on "They Are Night Zombies!!"--while others contributed by trumpet, guitars, percussion, banjo, and vibraphone. Vocally, all but the redheaded drummer chimed in, delivering harmonies Brian Wilson would certify. By the time the song hit the Cure-inspired midpoint, jaws were dropping. Even in the 110-degree/95%-humidity conditions, there was no stopping the Illini gala. Sufjan whisper-sang of Carl Sandburg's ghost and the musicians abated, isolating their frontman with their absence. With just slight backing from the drum kit and the occasional flourish elsewhere, Sufjan delivered and repeated Sandburg's pointed, dreamy supplication: "Are you writing from the heart?"

It's a question Sufjan doesn't take lightly. Every word is considered, re-considered and ultimately placed for maximum impact. Stevens' training as a fiction writer is both apparent and appreciated. In interviews, he has proclaimed his un-rockstar-like affinity for the workshop process. This is a man who recognizes the necessity of revision, and his songs are a reflection of his devotion.

Following the closing bars of "Come onÂ…", I just couldn't help it. At the quietest (and sweatiest) moment, I spoke everything I could muster. I uttered the words that wouldn't leave my head. As Sufjan moved from keyboard to guitar, I stared him down and said "WOW!" And I said it loud. And everyone agreed. This was music. This was art. This was performance. In response, one of the female Illinoisemakers looked up toward me and yelled back "And I'm doing this in leggings!" And she couldn't have been more correct. Not ironic leggings. Not funny leggings. But real live, honest-to-goodness cheerleader leggings. No one sweats like that for a laugh.

For some, Sufjan's appearance may have been little more than a sweaty ode to Illinois, but for those who cared to listen between the ting of the triangle and the pluck of the banjo, there was more at stake. While Sufjan Stevens exposes and extolls the treasures of statehood, while he revels in history and coincidence, he becomes the very thing he celebratesÂ…the pure essence of identity, the defining moments of a landscape. It sounds hyperbolic, but Sufjan Stevens is America. And in Salt Lake City, he was everything we could ask for. Even a brief savior from an unrelenting heat.

2 comments:

Dainon said...

Clap, clap, clap.

Watch for those wonky Mac-to-PC symbols, tho.

-Hawkeye

mattsmith5932 said...

='Brand New News Fr0m The Timber Industry!!'=

========Latest Profile==========
Energy & Asset Technology, Inc. (EGTY)
Current Price $0.10
================================

Recognize this undiscovered gem which is poised to jump!!

Please read the following Announcement in its Entierty and
Consider the Possibilities�
Watch this One to Trad,e!

Because, EGTY has secured the global rights to market
genetically enhanced fast growing, hard-wood trees!

EGTY trading volume is beginning to surge with landslide Announcement.
The value of this Stoc,k appears poised for growth! This one will not
remain on the ground floor for long.

KEEP READING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

===============
"BREAKING NEWS"
===============

-Energy and Asset Technology, Inc. (EGTY) owns a global license to market
the genetically enhanced Global Cedar growth trees, with plans to
REVOLUTIONIZE the forest-timber industry.

These newly enhanced Globa| Cedar trees require only 9-12 years of growth
before they can be harvested for lumber, whereas worldwide growth time for
lumber is 30-50 years.

Other than growing at an astonishing rate, the Global Cedar has a number
of other benefits. Its natural elements make it resistant to termites, and
the lack of oils and sap found in the wood make it resistant to forest fire,
ensuring higher returns on investments.
T
he wood is very lightweight and strong, lighter than Poplar and over twice
as strong as Balsa, which makes it great for construction. It also has
the unique ability to regrow itself from the stump, minimizing the land and
time to replant and develop new root systems.

Based on current resources and agreements, EGTY projects revenues of $140
Million with an approximate profit margin of 40% for each 9-year cycle. With
anticipated growth, EGTY is expected to challenge Deltic Timber Corp. during
its initial 9-year cycle.

Deltic Timber Corp. currently trades at over $38.00 a share with about $153
Million in revenues. As the reputation and demand for the Global Cedar tree
continues to grow around the world EGTY believes additional multi-million
dollar agreements will be forthcoming. The Global Cedar nursery has produced
about 100,000 infant plants and is developing a production growth target of
250,000 infant plants per month.

Energy and Asset Technology is currently in negotiations with land and business
owners in New Zealand, Greece and Malaysia regarding the purchase of their popular
and profitable fast growing infant tree plants. Inquiries from the governments of
Brazil and Ecuador are also being evaluated.

Conclusion:

The examples above show the Awesome, Earning Potential of little
known Companies That Explode onto Investor�s Radar Screens.
This s-t0ck will not be a Secret for long. Then You May Feel the Desire to Act Right
Now! And Please Watch This One Trade!!


GO EGTY!


All statements made are our express opinion only and should be treated as such.
We may own, take position and sell any securities mentioned at any time. Any
statements that express or involve discussions with respect to predictions,
goals, expectations, beliefs, plans, projections, object'ives, assumptions or
future events or perfo'rmance are not
statements of historical fact and may be
"forward,|ooking statements." forward,|ooking statements are based on expectations,
estimates and projections at the time the statements are made that involve a number
of risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results or events to differ
materially from those presently anticipated. This newsletter was paid $3,000 from
third party (IR Marketing). Forward,|ooking statements in this action may be identified
through the use of words such as: "pr0jects", "f0resee", "expects". in compliance with
Se'ction 17. {b), we disclose the holding of EGTY shares prior to the publication of
this report. Be aware of an inherent conflict of interest resulting from such holdings
due to our intent to profit from the liquidation of these shares. Shar,es may be sold
at any time, even after positive statements have been made regarding the above company.
Since we own shares, there is an inherent conflict of interest in our statements and
opinions. Readers of this publication are cautioned not
to place undue reliance on
forward,|ooking statements, which are based on certain assumptions and expectations
involving various risks and uncertainties that could cause results to differ materially
from those set forth in the forward- looking statements. This is not solicitation to
buy or sell st-0cks, this text is or informational purpose only and you should seek
professional advice from registered financial advisor before you do anything related
with buying or selling st0ck-s, penny st'0cks are very high risk and you can lose your
entire inves,tment.