Mountain man Justin Vernon, who performs as Bon Iver, quickly packed the Sound Fix performance space last night for a cozy, record-release celebrating affair. The previously non-official availability of his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago apparently hadn’t stopped the word from spreading – thank you internet buzz. With a wacky salsa music rhythm dripping through the walls from who knows where, Vernon and band enchanted the tightly packed, lyric-mouthing crowd with their feelings-y songs. His rich falsetto was in excellent force as he crooned through most of the songs on the album, accompanied vocally by the percussionist and bass guitar player. The three lovely and finely honed vocal contributions blended beautifully to recreate the density of the layered sounds on the album. Each man squished his face up tight as he sang the heartfelt words, looking towards the skies to invoke the angelic talents needed to hit such high notes as the songs require. Sensitive material, to be sure.
As a mark of Bon Iver’s recent popularity, about halfway through the performance a camera man and boom mic operator came pushing through the crowd and took a place right in front of Vernon, who ignored them and kept right on playing to the intimate room. He’s gonna be on the TV, it seems. Although obviously this sort of intrusion is a bit annoying, not a soul seemed to protest as the audience carefully stepped aside – the interruption seemed only to cement that fact that it was pretty special to be at this small, free show at a time right before Bon Iver perhaps gets really big. After playing a few solo numbers – one being a gospel cover on piano – Vernon waded to the middle of the audience and joined his bandmates for a special acoustic version of the titular track in the center of the room. Cameras flashed as those in the back finally gained a better view and the room as a whole soaked in the awesomeness of this arrangement. Both the newly converted and established fans eagerly flooded into the record store part of Sound Fix to buy up the album on vinyl afterwards and speak to Justin himself. I saw him sign someone’s album “XO Justin” and thought to myself “What a nice man.”