“This is intense. I keep wanting to apologize but you are all here. You must be getting something from it.”
Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie did not have too much to say during his sold-out show Friday night at the Starline Social Club in Oakland. But he did let us know that he was truly thankful for the attention and support, given that his latest album A Crow Looked At Me deals almost exclusively with his deeply personal grief after the passing of his partner Geneviève Castrée.
Besides opening with a new song, Elverum played the album’s sparse, acoustic songs front to back. More poetry recitation than musical performance, the atmosphere inside the Starline (besides some clanking glass at the bar) matched the album’s stark focus on Elverum’s silky voice and lyrics. If you’ve heard A Crow Looked At Me, you have wrestled with its devastating sadness. During the performance Friday, it was easy to spot a stranger crying. The venue quickly became one of the rooms in the house Elverum describes so concretely on the album.
On the other hand, my own sadness made me question why we were crying. Are we simply empathizing with Phil Elverum’s devastating loss? My mind wandered to the way I imagine I will feel when I lose my parents, and to guilty thoughts about calling my elderly grandmother. I think Friday night proved that the realness of death is matched only by our inability to describe its finality. There will be a million more A Crow Looked At Me‘s and that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking or diminish its worth as art. Hopefully, we all get something out of it.