Microphones / Sea Snakes The Music Gallery, Toronto ON - September 6, 2004
Published Oct 01, 2004A Microphones show has the capacity to be either a religious experience or a train wreck, but the signs all pointed toward revelation as devoted fans gathered at the Music Gallery. It was hot and dense enough inside that church to inspire visions, and being Labour Day, the air was heavy with reluctance at the shift in seasons. Backed by the lovely Sea Snakes, the Microphones' Phil Elverum took hold of this wistfulness and stretched it out so that the show itself seemed to be occurring outside time. Appropriately enough, they opened with the metaphysical: "You do not belong in the world," intoned Elverum. He balanced this later in the set with the exquisite "Let's get out of the world," an idea made plausible by the otherworldly strains of oboe floating above the orchestra and by Genevieve Elverum's freaky angel backing vocals. The pageant of gorgeousness was due in no small part to the Sea Snakes, whose accompaniment included piano, drums, tuba, flute, oboe and trombone, but never crowding the Microphones' sparse songs even during the most erratic moments. Elverum has the ability to see songs from a different perspective than most, and it is his off-centre perception that makes him so revered. "They put commas in the songs," he sang, and we laughed, but he also made us see those commas hanging there. He followed each declaration with more spasmodic dancing and possibly the world's slowest pogoing, or perhaps it was the heat that made him seem momentarily suspended in space. As is tradition, Elverum invited the audience to ask questions or share any public announcements, though most were too amused to do so, save for an obscure question about some limited edition vinyl. He closed this part of the set with the Sea Snakes with a sombre song entitled "Marriage," and truly, the union between these two musical projects at that moment was so perfect you could envision the ceremony taking place right there. It got me thinking about the natural correspondence that exists between many of these Toronto bands: the Phonemes, Sea Snakes, Les Mouches, and Stateside whisperers like Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, and the Microphones. Unfamiliar lines were still hanging in the air as the church emptied after the show: "I hear the sound of your voice singing words to itself, coming from across the water. I feel the universe shift." Here's to future divine collaborations.