Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sufjan Stevens

I took a risk last week. A risk that ended up paying off in spades. I had a ticket to see him on Teusday in Oakland and while surfing the web for Sufjan Stevens videos, I decided to see if tickets for Monday's performance were still available since he rarely plays here and Sufjan is one of my favorite artists ever. On stubhub there were tons of tickets but then I noticed a few that were $100 each for "row X". I did a little research and found out that "row X" is the pit seating right in front of the stage! I was still a little sceptical on getting the tickets when I found a craigslist posting for two "row X" tickets and immediatly jumped on the opportunity. I have been screwed over before on craigslist so I wasn't sure this was going to work and was worried up untill the point that they scanned my ticket. Thankfully, the fates were on my side and we got in.

Not only were we in the front, I was in the exact position where Sufjan was facing while he sung for the majority of the set. I swear (no homo) that he was looking into my eyes while he sang the last few bars of "The Age of Adz", it felt very personal.

The set was amazing and as soon as he started with "The Age of Adz" I knew we were in for a surprise in the setlist. That surprise came in the form of "All Delighted People" during the encoure, one of the songs I really wanted to hear but was not expecting at all. Of course, getting up and dancing to "Impossible Souls" was probably the most fun of the set because we were right up against the stage and could see it even better standing up.

The fact that they not only play "Impossible Souls", Sufjan's 25 minute magnum opus on "The Age of Adz", but also did it with costume changes, dancing, changing instruments and positions throughout, and having shit come down from the stage was almost too good to handle!

After the show, me and Emily both got our own copy of the setlist and figured that our amazing night had come to an end....

Walking to our car, I decided to scope out the area and see if it would be possible to see him get out and go to his tour bus. It ended up being very accessible and we saw the majority of the band leaving throughout the hour that we waited. Near the end, when it was us and three other groups waiting, the band loaded up into a van and drove off. We all felt discouraged and the other groups left. As we were about to leave, we saw one more security guard come out, and it fueled us with hope. We waited for a few more seconds and out came Sufjan and the last bit of friends he had been talking to.

He was kind enough to come over to us and chat even though it was freezing and he was just wearing a thin shirt. It was me, Emily, and these two sisters who waited with us.

We all introduced ourselves and I made a comment about how it felt like I was meeting a fictional character because he had been so elusive throughout the last 5 years. He laughed and said he was a fictional character. We then took some pictures and afterwords I was determined to get some good questions out even though I was trying really hard not to freak out in front of him.

First I commented on his awesome dance moves and that it was a lot of fun to get up and dance during "Impossible Souls". He said that part is always inspiring to him. I then mentioned that it was a great surprise to see him play "All Delighted People" since he hadn't in many shows. He said that he was avoiding it because he has been feeling vocal strains and it was too much. I asked him why he wasn't playing "All For Myself" off of the new album since I love that song and he seemed to like the idea. He said that the bearded guy from his band would be able to use his mini casio keyboard on it if they did and made it seem like he would try to get them to practice it for this tour.

I then asked if there would be any surprises for tomorrows show and made sure to mention "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!" but he said that they hadn't practiced it at all. He said that they had a few practiced that they could do and mentioned "Jacksonville". I also asked why "Majesty Snowbird" was missing from this tour and he also said that they had just not practiced it.

I then asked him if he was approached to attend Coachella and he shrugged off the idea and said that he never plays festivals and is nervous of the idea of playing one. He did say "maybe someday" though...

Speaking of him being nervous, half the time I wasn't sure who was the most nervous one of the 5 of us. haha

I then decided to say fuck it and ask about the 50 states idea. He immediately laughed and said he didn't want to talk about it. I took the opportunity to jokingly mention my idea of him putting out a 13 Colonies album so he could knock out 13 states at once, he seemed to find that to be a funny idea :-). He said that he needed to take some time for personal and health reasons after "Come On! Feel the Illinoise" came out and through that "Age of Adz" came out of necessity and basic needs. He also mentioned that when he was touring for "Illinoise" he found the songs to be too easy to play after a while and felt he needed to create something more abstract.

We talked about how most of the venues he was playing at were seated and beautiful looking and he said it was all very inspiring.

I told him a sidenote about how my college ID has a picture of me wearing my "Come On! Feel the Illinoise" shirt from back when I saw him the time before and he seemed to appriciate that.

In the end we said our goodbuys and I said that it was great to have two albums of his come out this year and that we all want more. He walked away saying that there was a lot more coming. :-)

And that was that, just about the most satisfing concert experience you could ask for.


  1. Joey,

    I have a great addition to your Sufjan story! I live down in Ventura & i went to his Saturday & Sunday shows at the Wiltern in LA. I had planned on only going on Saturday, but i just loved the show so much that i decided to stick around town on Sunday then attend the Sunday night show. After the show on Sunday, i decided to do my best 007 & see if i could get backstage to say hi to Sufjan. I managed to easily get back there & was able to actually shake his hand & get in a few comments.

    I said a few basic things, like I was a huge fan, the concerts were amazing, etc. I also told him that I play the cello & had been involved in some symphony orchestras over the years. He was kinda interested in that. Then I told him that the one thing I was slightly disappointed in was the fact that I went to sat & Sunday and that the set list was almost identical both nights. We then talked a little bit about how much of a production each song is to put on & how it can’t vary too much. At that point, I made a comment about how “all delighted people” had been on some earlier set lists & that I was disappointed that it didn’t make either Wiltern show. He made a comment about how his voice is “at about 50%” but also expressed some interest in playing that song… he even mentioned it to his band mates.

    It was not a long conversation but I just wanted to share that I also had a nice little encounter with Sufjan! Wasn’t that such a great show?! I’m not taking full credit for him playing “All delighted people”, but I’m going to take partial credit!!! ;)


  2. Ello there Joey,

    I followed the link to your blog from setlistfm, and boy are u lucky to have heard All Delighted People live! and even luckier to have met Sufjan in person, I love nice stories meeting one's favorite artists. I love your Davis student ID picture by the way, and I'm also an Aggie.

    and to Bryan, I was at the Sunday show as well! How did you manage to get backstage? I need some tips from you!


  3. Awesome, I am glad some people got to check out this link. I have had a crazy week and went to a show every single night so far.

    I am so glad to hear that you may have helped Sufjan decide to play All Delighted People for us because it was amazing!

    I ended up going to the Tuesday show as well, and I feel like I can take a good deal of credit for him playing "To Be Alone With You" at that encore :-)