Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland
In the Midwest, Ohio or Michigan, you can get in your car and drive for miles without seeing anything of note, just farmhouses and fields of corn or wheat or soy or cows or crows. There’s a sort of emptiness in all that space, a loneliness held within the land. Without anything else to distract you, you can go so far into your thoughts you might never come back.
“I’ll never come back,” you might even think as you’re driving along those long country roads, although you always do.
Despite Sufjan Stevens’ worldwide fame, his music sounds quintessentially Midwestern in tone to me; there is a certain melancholic sincerity in his songs that speaks to me of home. Or maybe it’s just because I equate home with that infinite stretch of road, and just about every summer, either with friends or wanderlusting acquaintances, I’d take a long road trip to Chicago. No matter who I was with, we’d play Hear the Illinoise. It became a sort of anthem to Midwestern road trips, particularly when the destination was Illinois.
Last Sunday, Liam and I went out to see him — Sufjan Stevens — in concert at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall. His main set was a collection of songs from his most recent album, Carrie and Lowell, featuring lyrics about his dysfunctional family. I envied him the alchemy of transforming pain into art. I wish I had the ability to turn my sadness into song and sing it, sing it, sing it. Sing it so often that the sadness leaves, like a nautilus crawling from the shell it has outgrown, and only the words to describe it, then powerless to hurt, are left behind.
The Carrie and Lowell portion of the concert included a complex light display, strobes and flickering images powering over the stage. Stevens’ lyrics, so raw and engaging, became lost in the spectacle of show. I suppose the idea was to dazzle the audience with special affects in order to lighten the mood. Just sitting in a dark room and listening to songs about someone watching his grandfather die and feeling ashamed of his mother doesn’t really appeal to the pop music masses, I’m guessing.
After Carrie and Lowell, Sufjan Stevens and the members of his band gathered around one microphone for an encore set. “This is how we used to play, all crowded around a single mic,” he said. They then played acoustics, softly, and with the stage simply lit.
“I contain multitudes,” said Sufjan, just as Walt Whitman said over one hundred years before.
Even without the Leaves of Grass reference, I felt his meaning. Like all good folk musicians, his songs were about more than just himself; they became a catalyst, and I found my thoughts moving between his memories and daydreams, and my own.
“You must ask yourself, ‘Where have I been? Where am I going?'” Sufjan Stevens announced to the audience. Some of them laughed uncomfortably. Perhaps their minds were producing the most literal answers: bar, then bathroom. Stevens continued, making clear his point.
“The other question to ask yourself is, ‘Why am I here? What is my calling?’ And I pray, pray to find mine.”
So . . . on to the styling. This is the outfit I wore to the Sujan Stevens concert. We took photos outside and earlier in the day, however, due to lighting considerations.
Also, no butterfly was harmed in the making of my pendant; the wings are collected from a butterfly farm after the butterflies have died from natural causes.
My Outfit Details
Dress: Corey Lynn Calter “Fragrant Valley Dress” for Anthropologie (via Ebay)
Belt: Alannah Hill (also styled here)
Shoes: Aris Allen
Rhinestone Bobby Pin: (via random Norwegian grocery store)
Earrings: Michael Michaud (via 16 Hands)
Necklace: My own design using beads of green amber, amethyst, and quartz and a (store bought) glass pendant holding a fragment of butterfly wing.
Ruffled Onesie: Daisy and Moose