Hailing from Washington state, Mount Eerie (the moniker for principal member Phil Elverum and accompanying member Carson Churchill) descended on Wesleyan’s Buddhist House on Sunday, September 21 for an intimate, stripped-down show attended by devoted fans and mere music aficionados alike. Elverum, who was previously frontman of the lo-fi Olympia-based group The Microphones, started Mount Eerie in September of 2003 after he believed his previous project to be completed.
Elverum’s stage presence, though rather reserved, was warm and inviting. Seated just out of reach of the audience behind a low barrier of ambient Christmas lights and beside the warm glow of a lamp that provided soft, near natural lighting, Elverum and Churchill created an atmosphere for their performance that was likely far more personal and raw than most present audience members had experienced before. Serving as a stark contrast to the endearingly soft-spoken Elverum was the more rambunctious and verbose yet simultaneously gentle Churchill; the mild banter between the two during the gaps between songs created a dialogue between not only the two individual musicians but also between the performers and the audience. The entire performance gave the feeling of a conversation, both musical and verbal, between Elverum, Churchill, and the audience members.
The set was relatively short, clocking in at just under an hour, yet left the audience with the sense of a completed conversation or elocution of a thought. Elverum switched between an acoustic guitar and a keyboard, utilizing the different sounds and functions of the latter to create organ quality sound at certain points, while Churchill favored a bass guitar. The two layers of sound, controlled by Elverum and Churchill respectively, were perfectly complementary, dancing around each other and at times overlapping in a way that made it seem as if they were partners working toward a title rather than competitors vying for the triumph. The tracks were lyrically simplistic and at times left the listeners wondering whether Elverum’s thought would ever be fully completed. This meant the songs could be found more relatable and accessible to a more diverse range of people from all backgrounds within the audience. The individual songs blended together almost seamlessly, held together by the dialogue of Churchill, wrapping the audience in a pleasantly comfortable cocoon of sound that enraptured listeners and focused their attention without making them feel as though they were trapped.
The overall sound produced was potent, powerful and rich. It flitted in and out of listeners’ ears while simultaneously festering in the depths of their stomachs and hearts. It wormed its way into the very flesh of the soul to lie dormant until that day that one’s heart is broken or one tells someone he or she loves him or her for the first time. These were the kind of songs that would fit perfectly in the crook of your neck and chest, to be the perfectly sized little spoon to your big spoon. The general warmth of the performance pervaded through the audience, washing over individual listeners like the waves of a Floridian beach. Both the performers and the performance were humble, modest, yet knowledgeable of their beauty and thankful for the applause of the grateful audience. Mount Eerie’s performance on Sunday night was deserving of all the platitudes that can be bestowed upon it.