Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Will Oldham perform. I learned of Will Oldham during my first semester of college when he was playing under the names Palace, Palace Music, or Palace Brothers. I was hooked immediately and consumed every recording I could find, listening to them at all hours, all the time.
In my 12 years of Will Oldham Fandom I have never seen him live. I have been either out of town, at rehearsal or not old enough to get into the venue when opportunity arose. Needless to say when I discovered only last Sunday that he was playing in Minneapolis today under the current name, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and that it was sold out my heart sank. I was pretty sad (& mildly self righteous in regards to being such a long time fan) but I decided that I would just go to the venue the day of the show & see what would happen.
I arrived 30 minutes early in hopes of stumbling upon a spare ticket. This show was a hipster convention: lots of beards, lots of skinny jeans, and no one talking. I got in a line with a lot of hope. About 10 minutes later my friend, Mary walked by & said, "You got a ticket!!" I explained to her that no, I hadn't, but was hoping to find someone who had an extra one that I could buy. Upon hearing this, the man ahead of me wordlessly handed me a ticket. I offered to pay, he waved me off and put his headphones on. He never said a word.
When I got into the theatre I scouted a seat in the second row. When the curtain went up revealing Bonnie 'Prince' Billy in their entirety I got goose bumps. Really. After the opening song Will Oldham paid to tribute to his guitarist, Emmett Kelly for breaking a string so early in the show. He continued to poke fun at the guitarist before transitioning to Obama's weekly radio address asking the audience if we listened to it this week. At this point, he could have said anything I would have thought it brilliant. I decided I needed to make more effort to listen to Obama's address. Through out the show every time he addressed the audience I listened carefully vowing to remember it forever. I was absorbed.
Will Oldham is incredibly prolific releasing records what seems to be all the time. His music is ever changing which gives every album a completely different feel, but it always carries the honest and intriguing lyrics that continually draw me in.
Tonight songs were played from all parts of his canon in ways I could have never imagined. (I was) Drunk at the Pulpit was a ten minute improvisation with the lyrics seeming to be the skeleton for the piece. Hard Life & Disorder were played as well, easily recognized but clearly reinvented and beautiful. Will Oldham has a spectacular stage presence; he is always doing kicks, twirls, and many, many gestures. Tonight he was always dancing, clearly in bliss on stage. I cheered when Just to see my Holly Home began. For this one he passed his guitar to violinist, Cheyenne Mize, and picked up a green Melodion. It was fantastic, a highlight of the show. But wait, the entire show was a highlight.
The show ended with Horses, blowing me a away. I couldn't believe it was already over. I gave a standing ovation (like the good Minnesotan that I am) and happily clapped as loud as I could.
This was one of the best shows I've ever been to in my life. I grinned the entire time, I am still grinning and probably will be for a very long time all the while listening to Will Oldham/Bonnie 'Prince' Billy/Palace recordings.