Tag Archives: sun kil moon

How apt. Watching Mark Kozelek in tornado weather — humid, rainy and dark  — mirrored my mood inside Turner Hall. Mark Kozelek’s songs in Red House Painters and beyond colored my adolescence — and not the particularly good bits. Whenever I dealt with break-ups or deaths or mopey sadness, I played his songs.

It was then equally thrilling and odd to watch a man whose words and melodies meant so much to me. Kozelek appeared onstage with a guitar and an accompanist. Instead of making the night feel like a glamorized Open Mic night, the sparse instrumentation enhanced the desolation in his songs.

He opened with two Modest Mouse covers: “Trucker’s Atlas” and “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” from Sun Kil Moon’s “Tiny Cities.” In between songs, he commented on how Milwaukee seemed very much like Glasgow: “old and gloomy.”

Kozelek, who looked more like a steady and serious bookkeeper than a rockstar, also sang songs off the latest Sun Kil Moon album, “April.” After “Heron Blue,” he did “Gentle Moon” off “Ghosts of the Great Highway,” and then a more upbeat version of “Carry Me Ohio.” He also played the Red House Painters classic “Summer Dress,” to which I had to bite my knuckles to keep from swooning.

Each song seemed to last forever, and pauses between songs were opportunities to pop open beer cans or walk to the bathroom. Throughout the night Kozelek spun a web of beautiful moroseness through the audience, which was great if you’re a fan, but hard to appreciate if you don’t feel emotionally attached to his songs. After all, it’s hard to listen to someone be sad for two hours, no matter how beautiful the process is.
I watched the show with a friend who wasn’t a fan, and wondered if Kozlelek lost him halfway through. But even Kozelek said he was expecting drunk rednecks with cellphones…instead he got an appreciative and respectul Milwaukee audience. “I’ll come back,” he promised, “if I’m still alive.”

In the end we got an encore too: Kozelek alone finished the show off with an abrupt version of “Three-Legged Cat.”

What Mark Kozelek; Davey von Bohlen of Maritime opens
When 8 p.m.,
Saturday, June 7
Where Turner Hall Ballroom,
1032 N. 4th St.
How much $15

When I was a teenager in the Philippines, my friends and I would listen to Red House Painters songs whenever we fancied ourselves as poets. We would lie in hammocks by the beach and get drunk on rum and Coke. Mark Kozelek’s songs comforted us after break ups, stayed with us in manic phases, was the soundtrack to typhoon season and hot and humid summers.

We felt that his music made us feel much intensely, with more depth.

When I moved to California, I was surprised to find out that many Red House Painters fans — who turned into Sun Kil Moon fans, and also fans of Kozelek’s solo work — had very similar experiences to mine, growing up. The settings were different (Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa parking lots, backyard swimming pool) but the feelings were the same

Now I live in Milwaukee where half the year, the ground is frozen. And fans still feel the same. So over e-mail, I asked him a few questions.

Q: Do you think there’s a universal thread going through your music that fans really connect to?
There’s a universal thread with all music. Andres Segovia played all over the world, so has AC/DC, and I guess I have, too. My favorite audiences have been in Asia. Like in South Korea and Japan, where people speak and understand little English. People are tied together by the emotion and the feeling of the music.

Q: Many of your songs are thought of as soundtracks for sad emotions. What makes you happy?
Lots of things – New Orleans, food, fishing, good conversations with friends, laying in bed and watching a good movie.

Q: What is your songwriting process like?
Some days I write songs, and some days not. Sometimes they come to me at once, sometimes I work at them a little at a time. There’s really no set process, they happen in different ways.

Q: What differentiates your Sun Kil Moon and Mark Kozelek songs? When do you decide which songs go to certain projects?
There’s momentum with Sun Kil Moon, so for the moment, I’m sticking with that.

Q: What do you listen to when you’re sad?
Noises from the streets at 3 a.m. when I’m in hotel rooms on tour.