Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sufjan is Still Legit.

-Kara Wenthe
Photo by Kim Larson
Saturday, September 26, 2009, I drove two hours along I-70 and I-57 to Champaign-Urbana. Upon arrival, I briefly explored Green Street, specifically Walgreen’s for an embarrassing one dollar and twenty-nine cent pack of gum, Mango Smoothie. Tastes like cream-savers.

I stopped in Walgreen’s due to the tourist-like shame of not knowing my surroundings, and rather than ask for directions, I just needed to take a breather from the crowds of University students on a Saturday afternoon. I also needed a stand-still moment to read the map on my gps device in order to find an art supply store: “art coop”, which I haven’t yet determined whether it’s pronounced art co-op as the recent death of the hyphen leaves the sound change to be implied; or, if the goose on the t-shirts and neon sign are significant to the pronunciation of the name.

The art store doesn’t really matter, I’m just stalling before I begin bragging about the reason I drove to Champaign. Aside from bargain buys at UO and a visit to a long-time friend, I experienced the wonder that is Sufjan Stevens LIVE. And rather than gloat about all the great songs he played, like Chicago or Casmire Pulaski Day, or express my excitement after hearing samples of all the new stuff he’s been writing; because of course, I’m no music major, I cannot come to anyone and critique a song based on sound or music theory.

I am pround to say, however, that I am incredibly inspired by his collaborative trend, as it is a quality I value highly in any art form. It connotes community.

The Castanets, fellow members of the record label Asthmatic Kitty, opened for and played with Sufjan. Most of the forward half of the crowd enjoyed their performance, despite two gentlemen beside us in the crowd rudely and way too audibly discussing football and frat-boy topics.

Tickets went on sale for the nationwide small venue tour one Saturday in August at 9am and despite technical difficulties with websites, almost all tickets were SOLD OUT by 9:37am. Only the Portland location had available tickets in the hours following. Guess they’re just not hipster enough. To further complicate the sales, tickets were will call only and only two per cardholder in order to keep prices reasonable and crowds minimal. The whole ticket purchase experience was excrutiatingly nerve-wracking, mind you.

And the experience is not yet over. I’m one of those trendy kids who asked her parents for a record player some Christmases ago, and I’m still listening to The BQE. Merchandise at the show consisted of shirts, vinyls and CDs of Sufjan’s whole discography, including the not yet released album: The BQE. The BQE, a project commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music; performed by Sufjan, a backing orchestra, including 36 performers in the form of a small band, a wind and brass ensemble, string players, horn players, and hula hoopers, all accompanied by an original film by Sufjan in 8 mm and 16 mm film; and recorded live in early November 2007, will finally be available in under two weeks, official release date October 20, 2009. It is both a symphonic and cinematic exploration of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The CD includes a DVD of Sufjan’s film as an accompaniment to the music. The vinyl includes a comic book explaining the hula hoops.

So yeah, Sufjan Stevens is still pretty legit.

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