Bon Iver is no longer a man; Bon Iver is lore. A deep history is now seeded in the events that occurred to main musician, Justin Vernon, involving heartbreak, love loss, and escape. In interviews, it becomes clear that actuality has been transcended by rampant word-of-mouth rumblings and fiction overcoming truth. But the heart of Bon Iver has, and always will be. But what happened to Justin Vernon during his escape in the woods.
For Emma, Forever Ago was self-released in 2007; its proper release through Jagjaguwar came in the February of 2008. Not only was the album highly praised and well received, but it connected with music enthusiasts and casual fans alike; heartbreak, it seemed, was an easy in with a human’s heart strings. The simple elegance paired with a quiet eloquence, entrapped listeners triggering memories of lost love and sinking them into catharsis. For Emma was not a Bon Iver album, it was everyone’s album; it was the purging of negativity for both musician and listener.
Following the success of For Emma, Justin would tour extensively, grabbing festival headline gigs and the like, diversifying his fan base. The entity that was Bon Iver hit its first growth spurt. Touring would also pair him with enigmatic and soft-spoken multi-instrumentalist Sean Carey, furthering the group’s dynamic. Shows promoted audience participation furthering the connection between artist and fans creating a dynamic quality in the music. Every song could be described as an “our song” to somebody as each one was personable and easy to relate to; suddenly, these fans with these connections found themselves as participants in the music they adored.
So much happened in between the release of For Emma and Bon Iver’s second album (their self-titled effort). Most notably, the name Bon Iver changed from Justin Vernon’s moniker to a fully fleshed out band. Friends from one of Vernon’s side projects, Volcano Choir, joined him in the studio alongside Carey and Polaris Prize nominated saxophonist, Colin Stetson. What began as a cathartic ambition of an individual developed into the entity it was slowly progressing towards; according to Vernon, the name “Bon Iver” no longer connects with him, but an idea. This is no longer the identity of a saddened songster, but to an emotion and the group that communicates it.
What made Bon Iver’s Bon Iver so special is that it keeps its personable nature while adopting an ambiguity that allows it to be everyone’s album. One listen of the album to someone triggers an emotion another listener may not have received. As a result, the album was a mix of euphoria, sadness, nostalgia and phobia; no two listeners heard the same record. Simple additions such as a bike’s bell would entrench the listener to sepia soaked memories of childhood, but could also speak to a modern man whose cycle is their joy. Perhaps the bike bell brought on reminiscence of a blissfully naïve state of mind, or escapism, but this was all dependent on your life experiences. That’s what Bon Iver became: a soundtrack to your own life. And what a beautifully intricate soundtrack it was.
The Justin Vernon that will take the stage at Deer Lake Park May 25th will not be the one who toured extensively for For Emma, nor will it be the same one who brought his music to the Orpheum late September. Now that he has grown, he has since won two Grammy’s and found a humble niche in the music business. Vernon does as he pleases and has not let his new-found fame bastardize his creative outlet. But just as he has changed, so has Bon Iver. Bon Iver is no longer one man; Bon Iver is, in itself, an entity; Bon Iver is your sound as much as it is his, or any other member of the band’s. Being at the show will not be a platonic friendship with a performer as he plays his songs. Instead, it will entail a full on love affair with music that is much yours as it is his.
The reality is that Bon Iver has changed, and so have you. Sometimes, this is all that is required for a new perspective and experience in music. To say you have experienced Bon Iver live is to say more than seeing him in concert: it connotes a connection between music, musician and self.
Tickets are still available for the show and are priced at $57.75 – more information.