Introducing “Mariana Trench,” Conor Oberst, the lyricist/vocalist for Omaha-bred indie folk band Bright Eyes said, “There’s been a lot more ups than downs these last few years.” “Mariana Trench” is the fourth track on the band’s newest album, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, and it was also the fourth song played by the band in their recent set at The Anthem.
Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was was released after a long hiatus — it had been nine years since the release of their previous album, 2011’s The People’s Key — in 2020. As Conor drolly pointed out, it did not go particularly well. They were only now getting to tour behind that album.
During those intervening years, Conor had stayed busy with other projects. He released four solo albums between 2012 and 2017, Payola with the Desaperacidos in 2015, and Better Oblivion Community Center with Phoebe Bridgers in 2019.
Even though Down In The Weeds came out 20 months ago, it’s still “new,” as far as playing the material in front of audiences, as Conor said at The Anthem on April 9, so the set drew heavily from the record. Conor opened the set on a high, celebratory note with the joyous “Dance and Sing,” the second track on the record. Other tracks from the album included “Stairwell Song,” “One and Done,” “Pan and Broom,” “Persona Non Grata,” and “Comet Song,” which closed the main set.
Stream Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was by Bright Eyes on Spotify:
The set, as Conor acknowledged, was lengthy, but so he said, were Marvel movies, which all seem to be 2.5 or 3 hours. This made for plenty of room for old favorites. “The Calendar Hung Itself,” he explained, is about his “first romantic heartbreak,” which happened when he was a teenager. It’s a little strange, he said, to still sing about now, at the age of 42. Heartbreak is a frequent subject of his writing, as in “Falling Out of Love At This Volume.” “Another Traveling Song,” he told the audience is about his ex-wife, Mark Twain, and telescopes.
Other material from Bright Eyes’ back catalog included “Method Acting,” “Bowl of Oranges,” “Something Vague,” “Four Winds,” “Arienette,” “Jejune Stars,” “Shell Games,” and “Poison Oak.” The encore began with the band’s best known song, “The First Day of My Life,” which has been featured on TV, in film, and in commercials. Conor explained the title of the next song, “I Believe In Symmetry,” saying that he believes in it, despite his general cynicism, “because it’s beautiful.” They closed the evening with “Easy/Lucky/Free.”
Watch the official music video for “Easy/Lucky/Free” by Bright Eyes on YouTube:
Before Bright Eyes took the stage, indie folk artist Christian Lee Hutson performed an opening set. Hutson has long been associated with Oberst, opening for Greater Oblivion Community Center when they performed at the Black Cat in 2019. He released his first album, Beginners, in 2020, and the follow-up, Quitters, just this month.
His set featured several songs from that record, beginning with opening track “Strawberry Lemonade,” followed by “Creature Feature.” “Cherry,” he explained was about “quitting your job” and about an Instagram page called “Sibling Are Dating” that posts pictures of siblings where it appears that the siblings pictured are in a relationship. Christian emphasized that he does not approve of incest. He finished his set with another new song, “State Bird.”
Watch the official music video for “State Bird” by Christian Lee Hutson on YouTube:
Christian also played several songs from the first album: “Lose This Number,” “Northsiders,” “Age Difference,” and “Get the Old Band Back Together,” which he said is about a friend named Nate Wolcott, who was kicked out of a band after he took a job as a Santa Monica building inspector.
The 14-piece orchestra accompanying Bright Eyes made this a very special show, allowing the band to showcase their songs in a way the audience had never heard them before, and will, in all likelihood, never hear them again. For the band’s dedicated, passionate following, this was a very special evening.
Here are some pictures of Christian Lee Hutson performing at The Anthem on April 9, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason. (Keep scrolling for pictures of Bright Eyes!)
Here are some pictures of Bright Eyes performing at The Anthem on April 9, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.