By Jamie (Snarklet) Nagode
If you listen to Conor Oberst, Bight Eyes, or similar folk-rock confessional style music tuned to a nostalgic and melancholy ear, you may think you have a grip on what its like to witness this man play a set. I came, prepared to somberly bob, maybe take a seat, cry a little bit. For the first act, my assumptions were met with an acoustic-based storyteller named Tim. Tim Kasher. He's a childhood friend of Oberst's, with a similar writing style and a theatrical stage presence. Kasher was accompanied by a cello, keys, and occasional drums, playing older songs and some off of his new album, No Resolution. Oberst followed Kasher with a full 5-piece band known as The Felice Brothers, who played on his most recent album, Salutations, recorded in March of this year. The power from this band honestly blew me away; they were extremely versatile, playing various instruments including accordion, keyboards, violin, and of course guitar, bass, and drums. They completely unearthed every expectation I carried into the venue with me. They maintained an extremely energized, manic, almost euphoric presence the entire time they were on stage, painting a bewitching contrast to Oberst, adrift in leather jacket-bound rage and disillusion, with hints of sobriety. The set was radiant in positive energy. It was really upbeat and felt like a celebration, which still surprises me, considering the subject matter of nearly every song shouldn't traditionally be celebrated. However, all members of the band belted out these words with genuine smiles and truly played with positivity and light hearts. Many songs would start off with Oberst lightly playing, and layers of instruments would be slowly added building to an overwhelming wall of sound pulsing through a drunk and happy crowd of fangirls. "Cape Canaveral" went like this. A few Bright Eyes tracks were played as well, like "Time Forgot", pacifying the crowd in prep for an acoustic bit, "Salutations." Oberst played alone, on the piano, before summoning back to the stage the lively Felice Brothers for "Roosevelt Room", a call to arms against political corruption. "This is a guy I wouldn't leave alone with my dog. Not even for a night. I wish there was more alarm, and disgust, amongst other people," Oberst says of Trump, preceding this song. The band left the stage, but was called back for an encore with a message we can all relate to: "No ones gonna change, no one ever does, and I'm never gonna do what you want me to do," a new song immediately understood and graciously received by the audience. His writing cuts through the bull, and still manages to improve with each new album. He ended the set with an old Bright Eyes song, "Train Under Water", and thanked the crowd for listening. It was graceful and inspirational, and certainly extraordinary. Conor Oberst is an act I would definitely see again.