Last night, Frank Ocean and Bon Iver played at the Angel Orensanz Center in New York for The Fader and Vitamin Water’s Uncapped concert series. The Angel Orensanz Center is an old synagogue that was converted into an art gallery in the ’80s. It is a gorgeous setting, immediately impressing a sense of tremendous gravity upon visitors.
This weight was slightly offset by the crowd—mostly media types who were more involved with their iPhones than with soaking up the surroundings. Still, going into a concert at a house of prayer to see Frank Ocean and Bon Iver, the expectations were high. Some of those expectations were met and some weren’t, but there were certain parts of the show that couldn’t have been predicted.
No “Bad Religion”
The set-up was perfect: blue and pink lights painted the tall ceilings and detailed architecture, a giant Persian carpet was laid out under Ocean’s feet, and a backing band of stern-faced men in suits played along while Frank turned up the energy through his set, delivering new material like “Crack Rock” and revisiting nostalgia,ULTRA. tracks like “Strawberry Swing,” “Novacane,” and “Swim Good.” It seemed like such a perfect time to finish things off with a moving “Bad Religion” finale. But Ocean’s set ended abruptly, and a crew quickly came out to prep the stage for Bon Iver. Maybe he thought it was just too obvious, but Frank never played the song that so many people in the crowd were hoping for.
Bon Iver Rocking Hard
In this setting, you might expect Bon Iver’s set to get spiritual. He’s a man capable of many things, but one of his strengths has always been an introspective, sensitive, and deeply emotive style of song. In this setting, that kind of stuff would have killed. I expected to see tears from at least a few faces in the audience as he sat alone on stage, with a single light illuminating him like some kind of angel while he belted out “Skinny Love.”
That didn’t happen.
Instead, Justin brought out 8 other guys—including two drummers—and rocked harder than I had ever seen him rock out before. It was great, but it was most definitely a surprise to see a bandana-wearing Justin falling to his knees while two drummers pounded away and distorted guitars filled up every inch of space in that old synagogue with electricity.
All Access For Everyone
At an event like this one, a huge chunk of the audience is media. This means journalists, photographers, bloggers, and industry leeches who pretend to do work but really just “network” by rubbing shoulders with industry insiders seven nights a week. There were also some fans there who heard about the event through word of mouth or Tyler, The Creator’s tweet. And then there were the VIPs, who were somehow affiliated with the artists, the corporate sponsors, or the venue. Because of this mix in rankings, there were varying levels of access granted. Surprisingly, that didn’t seem to matter. It was all access for everyone.
The building had three floors and was filled with stairs, doors, tiny hallways, and secret nooks. I did some exploring, expecting to be stopped by some guy in a suit telling me, “VIP only.” This never happened. I walked to the third floor, where dramatic windows and flimsy balconies overlooked the makeshift stage. The old balconies weren’t safe to stand on, but the barricade (a piece of tape across the door) didn’t stop a couple of lucky onlookers from snagging the best seat in the house before being asked to get off.
Frank and Justin Not Performing Together
This could have been an amazing pairing, and to have two artists of such high caliber at such a special event, a joint performance could have been an amazing thing. Frank went on first and Bon Iver hit the stage about a half hour later. The two sets were both good, but Frank and Justin never shared the stage, and that next-level moment of collaboration between two of music’s most exciting acts was missed.
Vitamin Water and Bushmills Tasting Good Together
Sounds like a gross combination, right? But it’s not. With Bushmills, Vitamin Water, and Heineken being the only options, the choices were limited, but if you ever find yourself with nothing but orange Vitamin Water and Bushmills whiskey, give it a shot.
Check out some photos from the night, courtesy of Good Fella Media.