I once was two people away from buying a ticket to see Bright Eyes, and when I approached the box office, the ticketperson informed me that I was oh-so-close, but no dice.
“You know what then? Fuck you,” I thought in my head as I went to have a consolation ice cream across the street.
That was six years ago. And I never got to see Conor Oberst in any form until Friday. It’s been a long time in waiting.
It sort of felt like, though, friends who haven’t seen each other since high school. You meet in adulthood and wonder if they’ll still be into ska, or paint their nails black, or sneak into the bathroom for a cigarette during Pre-Calculus. I’ve listened to Oberst’s side projects, his own projects, and his work on other people’s projects for years; what would happen when we were actually in the same room together?
Thankfully, Oberst and co was in top form at Bottom of the Hill. My sick ass enabled me to see just the second half of his show, and I would have pulled out my left lung full of mucus and swung it to Arkansas if only to have gotten there earlier to watch the mastermind at work. I got in right as “Milk Thistle” began, a quiet acoustic of Oberst proclaiming “If I go to heaven, I’ll be bored as hell” in a solemn but yet weary traveler manner. Oberst’s strong suit of a warbly, precocious voice, combined with his knack of lush storytelling, translated well live; on the quiet whispers of songs, not a crack of beer bottles opening could be heard, and on the straight rock tracks, even the bros in the flannel who accompanied their alt girlfriends bobbed their heads. Guitarist Nik Freitas, who is apart of Oberst’s backing accompaniment the Mystic Valley Band, was definitely on mark for delivering a pointedly sharp and definitive sound of wailing on the rock tip.
“This one’s about San Francisco…this is why I hate your city, but I will forgive you,” joked Oberst as he launched in “Sausalito.” No worries, doll. It’s all good.