Show Review: Conor Oberst @ Stubbs (9/20)

IMG_2947-2Conor Oberst takes a moment to stop in and say hello to his Austin fans and the reception and crowd participation (though, maybe not encouraged) screamed at me something I’ve been denying from my first intimate moments with his music in a dark bedroom on a lonely, suburban street; Conor Oberst is a household name. No, he is not on the front cover of EW from time to time promoting himself.  Yes, he still thinks of himself as an independent musician, pumping his heart through his quill with only the purely artistic need to express himself and his feelings.  Maybe, though, after so much time, twenty-one years, of painting musical landscapes in which his poetry can frolic, we have all chosen him as a member of our family.  Follow the jump for more.

I went to an all-boys Catholic high school.  I knew many young men who were battling with depression and evading turmoil in their conceited households.  They turned to music as an escape, and found Conor.  The way he would croon a self-defeating line and continue, in the next breath, with loveless musings of withering potential whispered honestly to them.  He never lied.  He was brutally honest about himself and his failures and shortcomings, which affirmed to them that courage in the face of adversity was not only possible, but honorable.  Conor Oberst became a loving, conscious twin.  We all became ‘on a first name basis’.

Few were ready to evolve with him as he turned from the depressive mania of an elegiac poet to the restless wanderer of a relentless soul-searcher.  Cassadaga and People’s Key propelled ideas of oneness and equality of spirit that many (definitely Pitchfork) were ill equipped to take to heart for reasons ranging from childhood trauma and a growing distrust of fellow people and society to a desire to wallow in sadness for familiarity’s sake.  Conor released his second solo album three years later and so, here, on an overcast late September evening, we watch as he casually moves towards an acoustic guitar, joining his mates and Jonathan Wilson who produced the just released Upside Down Mountain.  I’m leaning on the barricade in front of a diverse mosh pit bursting with emos, hippies, moms, and fan girls.  In that moment before the first strike of chord, when everyone is either mesmerized by his presence or trying to guess what he’ll open with, I hear nothing but an ever so slight mike feedback.

The next moment consists of three things: boys and girls alike screaming, the silencing of my mind, and the beginning of “Hundreds of Ways”, the third track from the new album.  “Zigzagging Towards the Light” follows, picking up speed and isolative feeling, proving not only Conor’s proficiency, but sealing that of Jonathan Wilson.  The success of the new record ejaculates into the crowd impregnating us with Wilson’s wa-wa lovechild.  Seamlessly effortless, they complete the sexy incantation they’ve been strato-casting with a Bright Eyes classic “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now”.  A few screams later, again, boys and girls, Conor and Wilson know we are hypnotized and, if given murderous instructions within his Leonard Cohen-esque lines, the media would soon coin the term Oberst Family.  Two and half hours and an encore later, concluding with “Another Travelin’ Song”, another number from I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, we are left in silence to wonder if real life can continue after that much intimate contact.

Photos by Ruth Vasquez.