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June 10, 2009 | 12:00 p.m. CST
Leaving the teen drama behind, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band will entertain Columbia’s indie faithful on June 29 at The Blue Note with their smooth energy and catchy choruses.
The influence of the Mystic Valley Band to Oberst’s sound is one that brings dynamic charisma that he did not offer as a solo artist under the ultra-successful moniker Bright Eyes. The band carries an eclectic country sound with a totally different style and delivery than what Oberst’s fans are used to. Rather than hum about how much life sucks, this reincarnated Oberst sings more about how life might be okay after all. There are even moments of silly nonsense in this new Oberst that just might make people sway their hips and tap their feet.
Most of Oberst’s energy since beginning his career has been dedicated to the sound of Bright Eyes, an inventive, poetic identity known for refusing to record for major labels and shunning corporate radio. Under this project, Oberst is credited with heavy influence of the intimate side of the folk-indie-rock scene that emerged in the 1990s, and his cult-like popularity has been growing ever since.
Last month, Oberst released Outer South with the Mystic Valley Band. The five-piece band performed on last year’s Conor Oberst, served as the singer/songwriter’s backing band on tour last year and will join him again for this year’s lineup. The June 29 show will highlight the band’s cohesive stage presence and give Columbia listeners a chance to grin and nod with the tunes.
Erik Shookman, a long-time fan of Oberst’s work as Bright Eyes, is sure that Oberst will bring a dramatic but directed aura to the stage with The Mystic Valley Band. “He pretty much hops from song to song,” Shookman says. “He’s very chill, very quiet on stage. He isn’t too interested in interacting with the crowd. His music, especially his older stuff, is very minimal, but I
was surprised how theatrical his live show was.”
Recorded in a makeshift studio with a cast of skilled musicians, Outer South is a lively album and contains what some consider to be Oberst’s best work. Although many of the lyrics are not as direct and certainly not as miserable as Oberst’s solo productions, they manage to include that old tragically beautiful vibe while somehow revealing a borderline bubbly and reasonably optimistic value.
For those looking for the angst-driven lyrics of Oberst and his earlier work as Bright Eyes, Outer South may not fuel their gloomy fire, but the carefree, alt-country vibe of Oberst’s new sound will likely lead even the most skeptical listeners to appreciate the experimentation of the band and Oberst’s skill at reinventing his identity as an artist.
According to Peter McDevitt, booking agent at The Blue Note, “The show will feature a mix of people, everywhere from teenagers to those in their 30s.” Oberst’s merging with The Mystic Valley Band attracts this mixture of people to their concerts because of relatable lyrics. From those hoping to hear the early sad stuff to those praying for a ray of light from Oberst, the singer/songwriter will likely deliver the latter with his new band and album.
Pulling from a catalog of records that are poetic, electronica, pop and even folk, Oberst stands to prove his status as an established and lyrically innovative musician during the band’s summer tour and his show at The Blue Note.
Where: The Blue Note
When: Monday, June 29 at 7 p.m.
Cost: $23 advance/$25 door