As the final days of the MusicNow Festival at Memorial Hall in downtown Cincinnati, OH wrapped up, a very promising April Fool's spectacle left the theater sold-out, and the crowd hesitant with what to expect.
Justin Vernon [Bon Iver] was the pinnacle performer of the final night at the Festival. With the previous two nights performances by St.Vincent, Ymusic, and Joanna Newsom being summed up as haunting, This was sure to make Justin's performance a trying follow-up.
Although many of us were promised a rare, solo-performance, that is far from what was received. Opening the night, was Colin Stetson (saxophonist), a mind-blowing, jazz professional that could have come straight from a 1950's smoking bar. Before Colin handed over the stage, he earned multiple standing ovations, garnered by his unique, solo-three-piece horn ensemble, which had soothingly vibrated the theater. Following his performance, Justin Vernon arrived on stage bearing nothing but his own two hands as the only instrument he would need. The microphone proved unnecessary. His large voice delivered a cover of "John The Revelator" — an old folk/gospel tune. Timeless.
Justin's simple presence alone allowed for a monumental appreciation, given its rare and unique showing. No one knew what to expect.– especially upon the arrival of his no-name band: a collaboration of musicians from Ymusic, a tiny orchestra of profound artistry, and key players such as the Dessner brothers Aaron & Bryce of The National. Many of us might be wondering how he used his hiatus. He's not exactly touring at the moment, and is on what some would call a 'halted-hiatus.' It seems as if his most recent tour never quite ended. Projects here and there kept trickling out, causing us all to wonder what his next move would be. Of those recent shows, we could never really tell which would be the last. Justin remarked that Thursday night's performance is finally a first, sort of a beginning to an end. Let's call it Kumran shall we?
Having played only four songs off his acclaimed, For Emma, Forever Ago debut: "Skinny Love", "Re:Stacks", "Beach Baby", and "For Emma"; the remainder of the evening's set gave audience members that element of surprise we were waiting on.
This was a grouping of cherished performances not often seen demonstrated by his duet with St.Vincent for the song "Roslyn" off of the Twilight soundtrack. The second song that genuinely haunted the audience, accompanied by the Dessner twins [The National]; was the romantic "Big Red Machine", which was written for the Dark Was The Night compilation.
Justin and his no-name, collaborated orchestra successfully brought an eerie vibration to those in the old theater, which is sure to have Cincinnati wavering in anticipation for next year's line-up announcement.
Big things are happening for Cincinnati's music scene, and the curators of MusicNow Festival are seeing to it that people take notice.