Bright Eyes

The UAA campus has once again been fortunate enough to have a national band play at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. After Cursive’s performance in February, indie-rock group Bright Eyes provided hope for Alaska residents that the music scene will continue to flourish.
Bright Eyes began their U.S. tour from the West Coast and are working toward the east, as posted on their official website. Veterans of the Omaha indie scene, the band has released several albums and created a large fan base for lead singer Conor Oberst, who has been compared to Bob Dylan.
The concert brought mixed reactions from those who knew of Bright Eyes, and those who didn’t. There was occasional dancing from people in the audience, while one girl in particular met harsh words from other concertgoers.
“I got yelled at last night. The people behind us were like, ‘Sit down,’ and I was like, ‘I like to enjoy music,'” said Angel Wing, 15, from Fairbanks who continually danced throughout the concert. Wing, who said that Bright Eyes is her third favorite band, drove in a Volkswagen bus with her friends to attend both nights of the concert. Bright Eyes had been scheduled to perform at the University of Alaska Fairbanks but was canceled.
Hoards of high school students – equipped with camera phones if not professional digital cameras – college students and adults filled the auditorium on the second night. While many front-row seats were quickly filled and buzzing about Bright Eyes, others weren’t as eager.
“I don’t really like (Bright Eyes) that much,” said UAA theatre/dance major Steven Sieve. “I just like seeing bands come to Alaska because it’s so limited up here.”
Dave Anderson, general manager of KBBI AM radio in Homer, has heard of the band from station play.
“I tend to be more of a music person, but he writes some of the most clever lyrics,” said Anderson.
Oberst’s distinct warbling voice echoed throughout the auditorium, backed by a variety of instruments. The band officially consists of Oberst, pedal steel guitarist/banjo player Mike Mogis and trumpet/pianist Nate Walcott. There were guest musicians on drums and bass guitar, creating a much larger and distinct sound than the usual combination.
Bright Eyes played a mix of shouted requests and songs off their latest album, Cassadaga. While inspiration for their songs varies from driving in circles to imaginary friends, Cassadaga showcases Oberst’s signature obscure style and political lyricism. Their performance was at its peak during the protest song “When The President Talks To God,” which sparked much controversy after its release. Although many adolescents in the crowd probably overlooked the context, it was evident that Oberst and the band poured their remaining efforts into the song.
Regardless of mixed reactions toward their music, the band received a long standing ovation, while the crowd wildly clapped for an encore. At that point, one couldn’t tell if audience members had been fans of Bright Eyes or just wanted to hear more music.
One of the concerts highlights was Nik Freitas, a solo act from California, who says Oberst requested that he join them on tour. Often compared to a sound reminiscent of the Beatles, he held his own with catchy hooks carrying the melodic drift of his voice in songs like “Nursery Street” and “Maria.” While he played a mostly mellow set, the crowd cheered at the sight of Bright Eyes playing with Freitas in an uptempo performance of “Sun Down” from his latest album.
Wing and her friends held up lighters in unison during Oberst’s acoustic solo of “First Day Of My Life” before concert security took notice. Wing, like many residents hungry for live music, must wait for other national bands to come to Alaska. Bright Eyes kicked off a promising start on their tour, continuing a trend that – if Alaskans are lucky – will bring similar acts to the Last Frontier in the future.
To listen to clips from Bright Eyes’ past albums or watch music videos, visit www.thisisbrighteyes.com. To listen to music from Nik Freitas, visit www.myspace.com/nikfreitas.