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Monday, October 5, 2015

Conor Oberst Inc. Takes Over the Fillmore

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 12:07 PM

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Conor Oberst
M. Ward
The Felice Brothers
The Fillmore, San Francisco
October 3, 2015

Better Than: Listening to I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning alone in your room and trying to understand why high school is so cruel.

“Conor and Friends” may have been the name given to Conor Oberst’s Friday night set at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, but the title could’ve easily been applied to his Saturday night show at the Fillmore. Appearing on a bill shared with M. Ward and The Felice Brothers, the evening’s spirit was something akin to a musical Socratic seminar. Oberst made appearances during the sets of the Felice Brothers and M. Ward, and the former was a semi-permanent fixture on stage all night as they pulled double duty as Oberst’s backing band. The night was a group effort, as Oberst, Ward and the Felice Brothers ebbed and flowed on and off the stage, sharing vocals and welcoming guests as they performed selections of their vast collective discographies.

With many talented acquaintances in the area for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, it wasn’t too surprising to see Dave Rawlings and later Gillian Welch join the gang on stage for a handful of songs. It’s a tribute to Oberst’s talents as a lyricist and raconteur that luminaries like Rawlings and Welch gladly made the effort to learn songs like “Another Travelin’ Song” and “Method Acting” so they could join in on the fun.

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“We’re merging our companies and trying to create a trustworthy brand,” Oberst explained. “We’re like the new General Motors.” Before bringing Rawlings and Welch back onstage to kick off his encore with “Lua,” he announced that his newly formed company had successfully completed “a new merger.” Aside from the humor of the very anti-corporate Oberst delighting in snippets of business jargon throughout the evening, there was merit to his tongue in cheek proclamations. The Oberst brand — a vast empire encompassing his work as Bright Eyes, as well his role in Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, Monsters of Folk, Desaparecidos, and other projects — is indeed a well-oiled alternative folk machine anchored by his role as a founding member of the Saddle Creek and Team Love record labels.

Oberst’s interest in making music across a wide array of facets and disciplines is reflected in the pronounced differences between his earlier music as Bright Eyes and his later solo output. Unifying every note and poetic lyric is his supporting cast of musician friends, present on his records and integral to his live performances like the one that took place on Saturday night. From the more traditional country rock roots of The Felice Brothers to the singularly wistful guitar of M. Ward to the carefully crafted angst of his own catalog, there was never one artist performing on stage, but instead a collective of complimentary talents celebrating the collective power of their song.

“I look forward to this weekend every year,” said Oberst early on in the show. “It’s a chance to see friends and play music, and that’s what’s good in life.” This is one IPO we can actually look forward to.  

Critic’s Notebook:

-A man in the crowd repeatedly yelling to Conor that his hat was on backwards was rewarded when Felice Brothers bassist Josh Rawson gingerly adjusted Oberst’s headwear for him between songs.

-The evening’s free poster was particularly top-notch, featuring a Royal Tenenbaum’s type curved spire with the names of the evening’s acts curled around it.

-If impersonating the voice of early days Bob Dylan ever becomes a paying profession, Felice Brothers’ guitarist and singer Ian Felice should definitely apply.


The Felice Brothers
1. Triumph
2. Saturday Night
3. The Big Surprise
4. Lincoln Continental
5. Whiskey In My Whiskey
6. Frankie's Gun
7. Wonderful Life $
8. Meadow of a Dream $

M. Ward
1.Get to the Table on Time *$
2. Poor Boy, Minor Key *$
3. Poison Cup *
4. This Could Be the Night [The Modern Folk Quartet cover] *#
5. I Get Ideas *
6. One Hundred Million Years
7. Rollercoaster
8. I'll Be Yr Bird
9. Wild Goose

Conor Oberst
1.Smoke Without Fire ^
2. O'Brien / O'Brien's Nocturne [M. Ward cover] ^
3. At the Bottom of Everything ^#
4. Man Named Truth [Monsters of Folk cover] ^#*
5. Soul Singer in a Session Band ^#*
6. Time Forgot *
7. Four Winds *
8. We Are Nowhere and It's Now *
9. Well Whiskey *
10. We Are Free Men *
11. Artifact #1 *
12. Cape Canaveral *
13. Napalm *
14. Map of the World [Monsters of Folk cover] ^*
15. Lullaby & Exile [M. Ward cover] ^*
16. Method Acting @#^*


17. Lua @#
18. Requiem [M. Ward cover] ^*
19. White Limo [The Felice Brothers cover] ^*
20. Another Travelin' Song @#^*

* with Felice Brothers
^ with M. Ward
# with Dave Rawlings
@ with Gillian Welch
$ with Conor Oberst
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About The Author

Zack Ruskin

Zack Ruskin

Zack was born in San Francisco and never found a reason to leave. He has written for Consequence of Sound, The Believer, The Millions, and The Rumpus. He is still in search of a Bort license plate.

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