It was a night of silences -- some awkward, some brilliant -- when Calvin Johnson, Genevieve Castree and Phil Elverum visited Warehouse Next Door on Wednesday. All three singers offered hushed performances, using only their guitars and their voices.
Headliner Johnson unexpectedly took the stage first. The K Records founder made his name in the punk scene more than 20 years ago in the band Beat Happening -- a group in which he embraced the absurd and pushed people's buttons.
Before the show, Johnson chose to push the "off" button of the Warehouse air-conditioning system in an effort to "separate the wheat from the chaff." The remaining audience politely perspired in respectful silence as he sang rambling songs in his signature baritone about "bunny blood" and "breakfast in bed."
There was a mischievous charm behind Johnson's tests of patience, and the sweating faithful were treated to a long-winded story-song about the car crash last autumn that nearly killed him and his current band, Dub Narcotic Sound System.
Montreal's Castree, performing as Woelv, came next, immediately requesting that the crowd take a load off. With the audience seated, the young French Canadian wailed and cooed exclusively en francais, as if Madeline were channeling Chan Marshall of Cat Power. She tugged somber melodies out of her guitar with her thumb, while her voice darted from playful whispers into Bjork-inspired crescendos.
Elverum, performing as Mount Eerie, closed the show with a soulful set of songs he had scrawled on his left hand. In a soft and boyish timbre, he sang tunes about nature and human existence, similar to the material he's recorded under the moniker Microphones.
Elverum seemed totally comfortable in his compositions -- some tumbled on for minutes, while others lasted only a couplet. With a vocal style so endearing, it was easy to believe him when he sang, "I will go on about dark hills until I have no voice left."
-- Chris Richards