Above: Phil Elverum, The Microphones, 1999
The Microphones all over again
In July of 2019 Karl Blau conducted a week-long tour of the Salish Sea, playing shows on Lopez Island, Orcas Island, Bellingham, Vancouver, B.C., Everett, Guemes Island, ending with a show in Anacortes (located on Fidalgo Island). I took an AMTRAK train north and joined him for the first five of these shows. On Orcas Island we stayed with Phil Elverum and his daughter. Phil had just recorded a new album with Julie Doiron (released as Lost Wisdom Pt. 2 on his P.W. Elverum & Sun label), and was ver excited about it. He played the show on Orcas Island with us, his set consisting of songs from the Lost Wisdom Pt. 2 sessions and one epic saga, a talking blues about his life (so far), which extend for over 30 minutes. Quite sublime surround sound.
The last show of Karl's Salish Sea tour was in Anacortes at the revived What the Heck? festival Phil organized as a tribute to the original What the Heck? in 2002. He invited several artists who played the original festival to perform at the revived version, including Lois, Karl Blau and D+. At the 2002 What the Heck? Phil had performed as The Microphones so he decided it would be fitting to play under that name again. It made sense. Folks were freaking to hear The Microphones were playing a show. Oh, well. The thing is, Phil changed the name of his "band" after recording The Microphones album Mount Eerie at Dub Narcotic Studio in 2003 to Mount Eerie. Why? Dunno. Could be the name Mount Eerie felt closer to home as he relocated from Olymp to Anacortes, which lies in the shadow of Mt. Erie. Maybe he never was happy with The Microphones as it was a name he chose for sets of back room cassette recordings when he was a teenager, and never got around to changing it. Or another reason, equally legit, is "Why not?" Whether writing, recording and performing as The Microphones or Mount Eerie it was still the music of Phil Elverum, unique and unequaled.
Microphones in 2020 and Microphones in 2020, Silent Version
Phil recorded his iliadic, epic self-referential, bio-pic talking blues (updated for the '90s) as a three sided album and released it on P.W.Elverum & Sun: Microphones in 2020. One of the best albums of whichever year it was that it appeared (it's hard to keep track). Just to drive the point home that he is at home in the Microphones regalia, Phil also released a massive tome of photographs that covered a sliver of the same time period as Microphones in 2020, Silent Version.
Albums by The Microphones available now from The K Mail Order Dept.
In case folks have not had enough of The Microphones, P.W. Elverum & Sun recently released an LP box-set of all The Microphones assorted albums, which immediately sold out. If you already have al The Microphones albums you can make do with just the accompanying book from the LP box-set, Microphones, Details and Context (which is available now from The K Mail Order Dept.) It's loaded with photogs and notes and illustrations and lots of personality. it might be just the thing.
Phil Elverum is currently touring about as The Microphones. If you can, do witness said event in your town.
Microphones, Details and Context (P.W. Elverum & Sun) book