Sun Kil Moon– Green Man Festival, Wales
(Aug 15, 2014)
A review by Erica Andreozzi
Sun Kil Moon (aka Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters) was one of the top 3 artists at Green Man who I was REALLY EAGER to see live, and it was crazy odds that they just so happened to be the act right before Augustines, one of my other top bands of the festival. I made sure to get to the front, posting up on the left side facing the stage…only to later realize (mad luck!) that this side would land me directly opposite Mark, with the BEST VIEW in the house. That lucky strike is what prompted my little “Look at us!” comment during the beginning of I Watched The Film the Song Remains the Same (video below), when I turned to the giddy older couple standing next to me.
Ever since a friend had told me about Mark’s new album (Benji) back in June, I had been listening for days on end and had been utterly transfixed by all of the personal narratives cleverly laced within his beautiful guitar melodies. Mark is brutally honest in this record, unveiling a repository of deep-seated emotions: relentless love for his mother (I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love), troubled confusion over the death of his cousin (Carissa), sexual confessions (Dogs), discomfort of misfortune (Micheline), death marking time (Richard Rameriz Died Today of Natural Causes), coming-of-age insecurities (Ben’s my friend), etc. And of course there’s much dressing in between the meat of these songs….So much subtle detail that you might think is random and out-of-place, but then later (after letting it marinate) you realize you were wrong- there is indeed a distinct method to Mark’s madness. He truly is a master of his craft.
One of the first songs that Mark kicks of his Green Man set with is a heartfelt track from Benji that he wrote about his mother: I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love. He’s also wrote a track about his father on the same album, but it was not nearly as sentimental and loving. You have to think that this brought her much tear-shed:
“I can live with the sky falling out from above
I can live with your scorn, your sourness, your smug
I can live growing old alone if push comes to shove
But I can’t live without my mother’s love
I can live without watching the classic old fights
I can live without a lover beside me at night
I can live without what you might call a charmed life
But I can’t live without my mother providing her light.” (slayed)
Funny thing was, immediately following this heartfelt track — a track that would almost prompt you to wanna give him a big bear hug– he makes a racy comment that most of the crowd found funny, but some found kind of vulgar: “They cancelled Jabberwocky tomorrow, so I’m gonna hang out here and try to get laid.” Referring to a “slew of ex-lovers” in one of his songs, it’s definitely clear that Mark likes to put off a ‘bad-boy’ image. Right after he made this comment about trying to get laid, he chugged some vodka from a bottle he had on stage; he re-visted this bottle several times throughout the set.
Next up was Dogs, which was very fitting since it’s about Marks’ sexual confessions/desires. I like this one, but it was kind of a strange choice for a festival that has a large demographic of families and children. I would have actually swapped this one out for Ben’s My Friend, one of my favorites from Benji that talks about the time he went to see his friend Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service) play at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California but how he felt too old amongst the crowd so he “gave his backstage pass to two cute Asian girls” and “drove to his place near Tahoe.” I love all of the references to San Francisco (Union Street), Berekely, and Tahoe in this one. Definitely takes me down memory lane and gets me a bit ansty to get back to California.
After Dogs came MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE from the Benji album: Micheline- a gnarly narrative that that is nothing short of GENIUS. Mark cleverly threads 3 different life accounts into one heartfelt journey of whit, irony, shock, despair, and gratitude, and you are left stunned and yet eager to hear more. I was SO STOKED to finally witness the live performance of Micheline at Green Man, although I was a bit thrown off by the beginning. I’m used to Mark’s acoustic guitar part kicking off the song, and it was a bit odd that he sat this one out. His vocals were incredible, but I still do enjoy his guitar!
“She wanted love like anyone else…
She had dreams like anyone else.” (flood of chills every time)
Soon following Micheline was another top Sun Kil Moon track (Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes) from Benji, although you couldn’t really hear the cool electric guitar part that comes in after Mark’s last verse (one of my favorite parts!). I turned my head toward the electric guitarist and stared at him with a “pick up your game!” kinda stare. Maybe it was a bit harsh, but come on!
“Richard Ramirez died today of natural causes
These things mark time and make us pause…
at 53 Richard Ramirez died but in 83 he was very much alive
he was the scariest killer in the bend
he had a pentagram
in the center of his hand.” (WOAH…creepy)
Another favorite was A Film The Song Remained the Same, and I can never seem to get enough of those gorgeous guitar melodies in the beginning. Such an incredible narrative that Mark weaves in this one, and the “thank you” verse (although more annunciated on the recorded version) slays me every time.
“I don’t know what happened or what anyone did
From my earliest memories I was a very melancholic kid
When anything close to me at all in the world died
To my heart, forever, it would be tied
And since that time so much has happened to me
But I discovered I cannot shake melancholy… (love this line)
I got a friend who lives in the desert outside Santa Fe
I’m going to visit him this Saturday
Between my travels and his divorces and our time not being what it was
It’s been 15 years since I last saw him
He’s the man who signed me back in ’92
And I’m going to go there and tell him face-to-face, ‘thank you.” (Favorite part! Mad chills…)
A few other songs from other albums that I would have love to hear him play are Elaine, Natural Light, UK Blues, and A Song for Richard Collopy. These festival sets often tend to be very short 45-60 min, and so I felt rest assured knowing that I would be able to hear much more at his solo gig scheduled for Aug 28th at St. James church in London. However, it was announced on Aug 23rd that this show had been cancelled. MAJOR DEVASTATION. I was REALLY looking forward to a much longer set, and of just him and his guitar. He’s playing festival in Sweden right now (from his song lyrics it’s clear he really loves it there), and maybe just decided he wanted to stay there for longer. Who knows, but WHAT A BUMMER. Luckily, my buddies in San Francisco will get to see him FOR FREE (along with Jonathan Wilson, another stand-out act at Green Man) at this year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival on Oct 3-4 in Golden Gate Park. Catch him WHEN YOU CAN…he doesn’t tour often!
I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love:
Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes:
I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same: