Mark Kozelek's relationship with his fans has been called "abusive." The language may be extreme, but it's not far off.
This February, the Sun Kil Moon auteur self-released Benji, an uninhibited musical autobiography that stands as one of the best albums of 2014. Kozelek subsequently spent the rest of 2014 garnering more attention for a mostly one-sided war of words with the War on Drugs and calling a Hopscotch Music Festival crowd "fucking hillbillies."
Now that the singer/songwriter is bringing his fiery live act to Duluth, it's worth heeding some tips about how to get the most out of your ticket.
Be Prepared for a Long Evening
Sun Kil Moon shows are entrancing -- Kozelek's consummate guitar work is enveloping, and his songs wind like a country road throughout his set. But that set normally runs for two to three hours. That's still like watching an entire Vikings game. Except, in between snaps, the quarterback turns to the camera and complains about his prostate and tells you that you suck. It can be punishing, but it can also be captivating. According to Kozelek himself, no one has walked out of his show in years. That's definitely not true, but there's a reason the guy has lifelong fans who come back to see him time and time again -- he throws himself completely into every performance.
Come in the Christmas Spirit
Mark Kozelek may seem neither holly nor jolly, but the indie legend is putting out a Christmas record three days prior to the show, so expect to hear plenty from that release. The jingles will be processed through Kozelek's distinct filter (see his album of AC/DC covers), but opening up this more sentimental side in song might evoke some goodwill towards mankind. Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols might be a godsend in that regard.
Take Pictures At Your Own Risk
Like zoos, Kozelek's live performances bar flash photography, which is fitting considering the guy has the disposition of a prodded grizzly. There's often an all-out media ban, but the lack of professionals working a pit doesn't mean he'll be relieved to see amateurs taking up the burden of documenting the show. In fact, cell phones are something of a trigger for the 47-year-old curmudgeon. He's gonna do and say plenty of things you'll want to tweet or Vine, but you're best suited keeping your iPhone holstered.
Don't Shout Out Requests
You probably shouldn't do this at any show, but other bands might find it endearing when their fans clamor for their favorite tunes. Kozelek won't. He's a guy who has abandoned entire chunks of his catalog for stretches without giving a reason. Don't count on your echoing plea to change his mind. You can never be sure what covers, classics, or Red House Painters throwbacks he'll work into the mix, but you can trust that he won't be doing it to appease you.
Stay Away from the Front Row
Sun Kil Moon and Gallagher shows are alike in the sense that, if you're brave enough to sit near the stage, you're gonna get messy. Especially if you're female. The front row is his go-to for inter-song antagonzation. The show is general admission, so get there early and find a spot closer to the back. You won't miss anything by staying out of striking distance -- Kozelek's music can be felt from all points in a room. Just in case you get stuck bellying up to the stage, be sure not to wear your War on Drugs T-shirt. Or tennis shoes.
Don't Just Sit on Your Hands, Either
Despite the fact that noisy crowds piss him off, Kozelek isn't keen on playing to librarians either. At a 2008 show in North Carolina, he claimed playing to the quiet crowd was like "fucking 50 corpses." It's unfair to ask a group of hundreds to all adhere the impeccably fickle tastes of a single human being, but that's exactly what Kozelek expects. Try shooting the gap with healthy applause and whooping without overdoing it. Just know you're dealing with a man that knows no reasonable definition of "overdoing it."
Maybe Stay Home
If your ideal Thursday night isn't walking on eggshells to prop up the ego of a remorseless genius, you might have to just skip this one. Kozelek is a generational talent -- a Kerouacian wordsmith whose unabashedness has lead him to write an opus -- but Benji might be better enjoyed on wax for some. If this is indeed an abusive relationship, perhaps it's just time to get out.
Mark Kozelek. With Low. Thursday, November 13 at Karpeles Museum. Ticket info forthcoming.
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