This year’s two-weekend ACL setup gives artists an opportunity to stay in Austin for a week in between festival weekends. While most of them are doing shows around downtown to fill the void, Justin Vernon (best known as the frontman of Bon Iver) decided to spend his time in a much different way.
This past Tuesday, the Grammy award-winning artist played a stripped down, ambient set for Power In The Park, a local benefit event that combines two Austinite staples – live music and yoga
Accompanied by his fellow members of The Shouting Matches and a flutist, the musicians played on a small stage with a guitar, piano and tribal drums. The music was all improvised, and none of it could be recognized from previous works from any of the members. There was no singing, and the group created a very ethereal atmosphere to accompany such an enlightening activity.
Vernon’s guitar was induced with heavy reverb, and he played long drawn out chords to the meditative crowd. The flutist quietly piped along, and slow pulsating drums provided a heartbeat for the music. It definitely sounded like Bon Iver in essence, just without Vernon’s crooning falsetto.
It was apparent that most of the yogis were there for the yoga, and didn’t know who Vernon was or that he would be there. Waiting in the Kombunca line before the show, I could hear the yoga-goers confusion:
“Oh, who is he? What band? Well, I guess that’s cool,” was commonly overheard, and once the event started very little of it was focused on the performers.
Having drawn in thousands of adoring festival fans with Bon Iver, it must have been a completely different experience for Vernon to do something like this. Instead of waves of adoring hipsters singing along to his music, he was performing for a small group of people who were more concerned with keeping their legs up in the air. Most of them probably thought he was just some random guy with a beard.
But this new experience gave the musicians a much more relaxed setting where they could basically do whatever they wanted. Vernon and friends were having a fun time just providing a soundscape for these yoga enthusiasts to ruminate to. Combined with the sunset over Austin, it was a very calming and pleasant evening.