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Thursday, October 29

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Concert Thu Oct 04 2007

Elvis on the Lake

ElvisPerkins1.jpg

It’s nearly impossible to listen to Elvis Perkins without thinking of his unique and melancholy personal history. His father, actor Anthony Perkins, succumbed to AIDS in 1992. Almost exactly nine years later, his mother, noted photographer Berry Berenson, died on American Airlines Flight 11 on September 11, 2001. While his debut album Ash Wednesday isn’t strictly a biographer of his life, or a reaction to 9/11, these horrific losses completely inform the work without overwhelming it.

As a neo-folk troubadour, comparisons to Nick Drake, Van Morrison and especially Bob Dylan are apt and obvious, and there is a lot of religious iconography that suggest both Astral Weeks and John Wesley Harding, but I feel the music is powerful enough to stand on its own. Ash Wednesday has a classic and homespun feel, and while little of it is fresh or original, it’s just so damn good that none of that matters. Recorded in analog, live and mostly improvised, the album is broken into two distinct sides, as though it were a record that affords its listeners time to pause before flipping from one side to the other. Side One is filled with brighter, more up-tempo melodies and opens with “While You Were Sleeping”, an absolute stunner. Perkins’ raspy baritone sings over a light acoustic guitar, which is then layered slowly with an upright bass followed by brushed drums then strings and horns and a didgeridoo and a hand saw and soft female vocals. It’s a rolling, easy-going ode to his father that openly hints at an ocean of melancholy. “Ash Wednesday” serves as the de-facto Side Two starter with unholy wailing, haunting lyrics (“No one will survive Ash Wednesday”), and the slow drum beat of a death march; it’s a jarring shift that sets the tone for the more somber approach of the second half. According to Perkins himself, that song, “represents the dividing line between the songs written before and the songs written after the dark day (9/11).” The ballad style of the latter frame continues until the finale, “Good Friday”, which features the singer finding comfort in his songs, as if they too represented holy significance. The religiosity of the record, while overtly Christian, is teasingly ambiguous, as are the images of sleep and dreams, of heaven and love and nostalgia and missed opportunities. There is an astounding amount of sadness and loss etched within the cracks of these songs, but hope ultimately prevails, the idea that if we remain together (lovers and friends, parents and children, you and me, us and them) then we’ll all make it to the other side—wherever that may be. Ash Wednesday is a highly accomplished debut with hidden surprises, pitch perfect production, and the soul of a young man who has done enough living to sing about it.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland (his four-piece band) ease into Chicago this Sunday at the Lakeshore Theater for a Schubas’ sponsored show. The Lakeshore is a perfect venue for the band, as the amazing acoustics of the space promise a pristine clarity to showcase his layered tones. Brighton, MA (Chicago locals poised for a big breakout) opens. Show starts at 9pm. Tickets are a steal at $14.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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