A Mountain Comes to the Hill

Tom Wiley

“Suddenly, life has new meaning,” Phil Elverum sang at Donovan’s Pub on Thursday, October 29 at a concert headlined by his band, Mount Eerie. Across Mount Eerie’s folksy, soul-searching nature songs, the meaning of life proved to be something that is found, lost and found again.

 The concert was a collaborative effort by three artists. Guitarist and singer Tara Jane O’Neill and the pop artist No Kids both contributed performances and then joined Mount Eerie for a final set.

The musicians behind Mount Eerie proved themselves to be as versatile and varied as the changing natural world that their songs described. Shifting between folk, hard rock and black metal, the songs on the Mount Eerie set, which were mostly taken from their latest album Wind’s Poem, described mystifying natural wonders – fire, rivers, mountains, fog – with earthy guitar tones and thunderous percussion.

Elverum’s lyrics were earnest and searching. Taking his inspiration from the wild, he sang about upheaval, doubt and revelation.

“I see flames in my calm life,” Elverum sang on “Wind’s Dark Poem.”

In their concert here his band played the songs off their album in reverse order, beginning with an ending and closing at the beginning. Coming from an album that contemplates meaning, the switch opened up new perspectives and possibilities. Even the musicians seemed to pause at each new transition.

“If only we could play the songs themselves in reverse,” Elverum joked.

Elverum founded Mount Eerie in 2003 after he abandoned his previous band, the Microphones. Mount Eerie is based in Anacortes, Washington, a town located near the actual Mt. Erie from which the band takes its name. Elverum is the principal artist in Mount Eerie, but in recording and in concert he has worked with many other musicians and songwriters, as he did tonight.

The pop artist No Kids began the concert with a set of original songs that bridged the California rock-pop of the 1970’s and some more recent pop-soul productions coming out of New York City.

“Tonight I’m thinking about Los Angeles. I’m thinking about Mulholland Drive – the movie. And finally I’m thinking about Mary J. Blige,” Nick Krgovich, the main artist behind No Kids, told the audience.

Krgovich, who co-wrote some of songs Mount Eerie performed, in his own music showed a wistfulness that found its roots far from Mount Eerie’s wilderness. No Kids’ songs were populated by images taken out of an old-time Hollywood movie: aging stars, terraces lined with palm trees, balconies and hidden doors. Occasionally he broke into more upbeat soul-pop and here he must have had the dynamic R&B singer Mary J. Blige in mind.

The second performer of the night was Tara Jane O’Neill. O’Neill’s set was comprised of longer compositions in which she demonstrated her skill on the guitar and her ability to construct intricate, melancholy guitar ballads. She punctuated her performances with a bit of humor. She shared jokes between songs and included the audience on one number, distributing tambourines and hand shakers among the small crowd assembled in the pub.

Closing up for the night, the band thanked the audience, packed up and headed back out into the wilderness of our Chenango County.