by Molly Beauchemin
Justin Vernon of Bon Iver plays at BFree Yoga’s Power In The Park at the Long Center on Tuesday evening.
This past Tuesday, Oct. 8th, Grammy Award-winning musician Justin Vernon (best known for his multi-instrumental work as the frontman and face of indie rock outfit Bon Iver) used the interim period between Austin City Limit’s two festival weekends to play music for BFree Yoga’s “Power In The Park” at the Long Center in downtown Austin.
In what is officially the most “Bon Iver” move we can imagine, the artist played a stripped down ambient set for the local benefit, which supports live music and yoga– two staples of Austin’s notoriously eclectic boho culture. Vernon was accompanied by a flutist and members of a Bon Iver side project known as The Shouting Matches, who together played guitar, piano, and tribal drums on a small stage at the event. All of the music was improvised and completely instrumental; the decision to scrap vocals reportedly added to the ethereal atmosphere that Vernon induced with reverb-laden chords and pulsating drum beats, which underscored the evening’s meditative vibe.
But wait, it gets better: The Daily Texan also reports that “in the Kombucha line” before the show, it became clear that most of the yogis didn’t know who Vernon was or that he would even be playing at the event. “Most of them,” the source claims, “just thought he was some random guy with a beard.” At any yoga event, and especially one in Austin, this is a distinct possibility.
The beauty of this news is that even when Vernon is not there in person, Bon Iver is soundtracking most yoga classes across America between the band’s two yoga-friendly ethereal LP’s, 2011’s eponymous Bon Iver and the near-cliche’d delicacy of their 2008 debut record, For Emma, Forever Ago– an album whose balladry is so gentle and tenderly-sussed that its pairing with yoga seems not only inevitable, but (at this point) almost expected. Saturday Night Live has already spoofed Bon Iver’s lullaby aesthetic in a skit that found Justin Timberlake pretending to be “Bon Iver” and then lulling himself asleep with his own songs– but Vernon’s yoga-jam in Austin might just be “Bon Iver” enough to give the writers at 30 Rock some new material. We’re looking forward to seeing Taran Killam and Kenan Thompson don the yoga pants in the next installment.
Though in all honesty (jokes aside), the reports from Austin suggest that BFree was a very pleasant evening: the soundscape was lush, the air was warm, and from their positions in Downward-Facing Dog, those lucky enough to be at the event caught a glimpse of the Fall sunset over Austin, right as the music set in.