SYLVAN ESSO—the singer Amelia Meath of Mountain Man and the producer (and Megafaun bassist) Nick Sanborn—create “endlessly elastic and three-dimensional” (NPR) songs that conjure up dreamlike conflations of sensuality and sexual depravity, homesickness and wanderlust, nostalgia and immediacy. The duo began as a chance meeting, followed by a couple of risky cross-country relocations that coalesced into ten songs. It became very clear early on that these songs were the product of sheer alchemy; Amelia's effortlessly acrobatic melodic reflections complimented Nick's dynamic compositions in ways that were as unlikely as they were undeniable. When it started it was whisper quiet, a slight frame, something almost domestic but gleaming with excitement. Then it made contact with the air and Sylvan Esso found themselves on a three-year worldwide swirl of planes, buses, vans, venues, festival stages, hotel rooms, radio stations, and television studios.
After headlining a BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival show in 2015, the duo is back with a new album, What Now, and a second appearance at the Bandshell.
Over 18 months, the band constructed and shaped What Now at their studio in Durham, North Carolina, as well as extended stays in the paralyzing rural Wisconsin winter and the dry desert heat of downtown Los Angeles. What once sounded small and modest has grown to squall and surge without boundary, but never at the expense of its own intimacy or honesty. There's been an awakening as to what a Sylvan Esso song can be. The whole thing still shifts and quakes as if the kinetic energy of its own making might send it skittering off but it stays right there perched on a busted flight case on a keyboard stand that's been lost countless times yet somehow always recovered. The music pushes air. Sylvan Esso is a living breathing thing that exists in the real world.
At its core, this is an album that was created against the backdrop of 2016, which means that it is inherently grappling with the chaos of a country seething inward on itself. Time in the lion's den gave way to seared indictments of the music industry and narcissistic mass media culture. When the present seems unstable and the future is a pastiche of foreboding it can be natural to turn to the past, to search for some solace in the skipping CDs and rewinding VHS tapes of one's childhood, but you can never go back again. Never one to shy away from duality, Amelia muses true love as an unavoidable deterrent for a death-wish; it's a record about falling in love and learning that it won't save you. It's an album about meeting your own personal successes but feeling the fizzling embers of the afterglow rather than the roar of achievement; about the crushing realization that no progress may ever be permanent. There are no grand exits or Hollywood endings, life just goes on. Perhaps it is in this truth that we can begin to extend connectivity to one another, free from our own need for narrative. This isn't just pop music that refuses to be dumb, anymore, this is protest music that refuses to not be personal.
Sydney-based MIDDLE KIDS, opens the night with their “hook-laden, entirely delightful songs” (NPR).
- No-fee tickets can be purchased at Mercury Lounge, Thursday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.; Music Hall of Williamsburg, Saturday only, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both box offices are cash only.
- Ticketing and box office questions should be directed to Bowery Presents.
- Children ages 2 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
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Friends of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival
Member Seating & Tent Access
Friends Seating: Rear seats open to Seat-Pass and Tent-Pass members
Friends Tent: Open to Tent-Pass members
Sponsor Tent: TBD
The BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival is one of New York City's longest running, free, outdoor performing arts festivals and is held every summer at the Prospect Park Bandshell. View seating arrangements here.
To learn more about our COVID-Safety precautions, visit our FAQ page.