Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 8:53 p.m.
"Hi, this is our college band," Justin Vernon said after DeYarmond Edison finished their first song. "We haven't played a show in seven years until right now."
Tonight's reunion set was one of those only-at-SXSW moments that unfairly happened about 1200 miles away from the band's small core fanbase in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It's hard to say what prompted the quartet to play a one-off reunion show, but all of DeYarmond's members (Vernon, plus Megafaun's Brad Cook, Phil Cook, and Joe Westerlund) have been gigging and touring together recently in Gayngs, so it wasn't much of a stretch for them to get together for tonight's gig.
The group opened with a cover of Bonnie Raitt's "Lovers Will" (Bon Irait, a friend joked), and it only took a few minutes for the portion of the crowd who didn't know who the hell DeYarmond Edison to figure out who they were seeing. "Oh, it's Bon Iver!" the girl behind me exclaimed, surprised. I was a little worried about how the crowd would react to the set, especially since DeYarmond was sandwiched as a TBA act between several rap groups, but the crowd pressed forward and seemed into it almost immediately.
For the second song Vernon asked how many Donny Hathaway fans were in the crowd, and explained that they were going to do Hathaway's version of Carole King's hit "You've Got a Friend." Their cover was beautiful, and it didn't take long for the whole place to start singing along to the chorus.
Video by Carl Atiya Swanson of Cake in 15
And to close it out (yep, they only played three songs), they played a DeYarmond original, "Set Me Free," and the whole front of the chatty crowd quieted down and stayed rapt throughout their extended bluesy jam. "I feel like I'm at church," another girl near me said, and her friends just silently nodded their heads. Even those who didn't know the history of DeYarmond Edison knew they were seeing something special, and that's a hard feat to accomplish during a crazy week like SXSW and at a crazy see-and-be-seen hangout like the Fader Fort.
To top it all off, P. Diddy, who was at the Fort to introduce headliner Lil B, was looking on from the side of the stage decked out in a "Cocaine and Caviar" t-shirt. Only at SXSW.