Phil Elverum’s Mount Eerie tackles death, grief and intimacy at emotional St. Stephen’s Church show in D.C.

“Death is real,” these were the first words out of songwriter and producer Phil Elverum’s mouth. This phrase effectively sums up the struggle which Elverum has been going through and the same that led to the production of his newest album “A Crow Looked at Me”.
Elverum’s wife, Geneviève Castrée was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 and passed away in July of 2016 leaving Elverum and their infant child behind.

The album was composed and written about the months immediately following her passing and Elverum’s struggle to find his way through life without her. As Pitchfork’s contributor Mike Powell points out, death is a subject often abused and done injustice to when it comes to art, but Elverum’s album is able to avoid any pitfall of the like.

Elverum’s career is one which transcends a single group having worked on several projects over the years. Perhaps his best known project was The Microphones who performed and worked together from 1996 to 2003, best known for their album “The Glow Pt. 2”. His other focus from 2003 on has been Mount Eerie, a solo act which began after The Microphones dissolved. The audience was able to accurately reflect the span of Elverum’s career from young Microphones worshipers to those who had actually been around to see them perform live.

Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie

Another important aspect of the performance besides the audience itself was the venue. The show was seated and took place in St. Stephen and the Incarnation’s church in Northwest D.C., a haunting, yet fitting venue for the songs at hand. The preshow mix was comprised of airy gospel hymns furthering the religiosity of the event. As his performance began and he sat down, dwarfed by the high ceilings, you could hear a pin drop and he immediately began with “Real Death”.

The live performance itself was exactly what you might expect from listening to the album, simply Elverum, his voice and his guitar. Despite this being the middle of the tour, and knowing he had done this many times before you could still see the pain and raw emotion with every song he sang. Incredibly, he maintained enough composure to get through the entire show without stopping for more than a simple “Thank you,” in between songs.

The set list was comprised mostly of songs from the new album, but with a few new ones which also focused around his life after he lost his wife. The songs themselves are beautifully written, bouncing between different anecdotes throughout their time together as well as describing in painful detail his thoughts and feelings wandering around the house which they shared together. His voice was honest, soft and beautiful which paired perfectly with his strumming of the guitar which changed pace from song to song.

The highlight of the show was likely “Soria Moria” off of his new album. The song is about six minutes and journeys through their first meeting up until the present where he finds himself looking at the same painting. This song in particular stood out because of the guitar solo in the middle which was incredible to watch him accomplish with only an acoustic guitar.

Overall the show was exactly what had been expected, but in the most beautiful and introspective way. If this is Elverum’s outlet for grief, then we are all lucky to be let in to his world, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Gavin Derleth

Gavin currently goes to school in Washington D.C., studying Political Science and Geography. He enjoys coffee, biking, and spending way too much of his time listening to music.

Phil Elverum’s Mount Eerie tackles death, grief and intimacy at emotional St. Stephen’s Church show in D.C.

“Death is real,” these were the first words out of songwriter and producer Phil Elverum’s mouth. This phrase effectively sums up the struggle which Elverum has been going through and the same that led to the production of his newest album “A Crow Looked at Me”.
Elverum’s wife, Geneviève Castrée was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 and passed away in July of 2016 leaving Elverum and their infant child behind.

The album was composed and written about the months immediately following her passing and Elverum’s struggle to find his way through life without her. As Pitchfork’s contributor Mike Powell points out, death is a subject often abused and done injustice to when it comes to art, but Elverum’s album is able to avoid any pitfall of the like.

Elverum’s career is one which transcends a single group having worked on several projects over the years. Perhaps his best known project was The Microphones who performed and worked together from 1996 to 2003, best known for their album “The Glow Pt. 2”. His other focus from 2003 on has been Mount Eerie, a solo act which began after The Microphones dissolved. The audience was able to accurately reflect the span of Elverum’s career from young Microphones worshipers to those who had actually been around to see them perform live.

Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie

Another important aspect of the performance besides the audience itself was the venue. The show was seated and took place in St. Stephen and the Incarnation’s church in Northwest D.C., a haunting, yet fitting venue for the songs at hand. The preshow mix was comprised of airy gospel hymns furthering the religiosity of the event. As his performance began and he sat down, dwarfed by the high ceilings, you could hear a pin drop and he immediately began with “Real Death”.

The live performance itself was exactly what you might expect from listening to the album, simply Elverum, his voice and his guitar. Despite this being the middle of the tour, and knowing he had done this many times before you could still see the pain and raw emotion with every song he sang. Incredibly, he maintained enough composure to get through the entire show without stopping for more than a simple “Thank you,” in between songs.

The set list was comprised mostly of songs from the new album, but with a few new ones which also focused around his life after he lost his wife. The songs themselves are beautifully written, bouncing between different anecdotes throughout their time together as well as describing in painful detail his thoughts and feelings wandering around the house which they shared together. His voice was honest, soft and beautiful which paired perfectly with his strumming of the guitar which changed pace from song to song.

The highlight of the show was likely “Soria Moria” off of his new album. The song is about six minutes and journeys through their first meeting up until the present where he finds himself looking at the same painting. This song in particular stood out because of the guitar solo in the middle which was incredible to watch him accomplish with only an acoustic guitar.

Overall the show was exactly what had been expected, but in the most beautiful and introspective way. If this is Elverum’s outlet for grief, then we are all lucky to be let in to his world, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

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