It was a quiet though humor-filled evening last night (Aug. 26) at the Beacon Theater in New York, as a handful of indie stars took the stage for the Revenge of the Bookeaters benefit. Hosted by comedian Demetri Martin, the event featured largely acoustic performances by Feist, Jim James, Grizzly Bear, Britt Daniel, Kevin Drew and A.C. Newman and served to help fund 826NYC charity writing program for children.
Newman led off the night with “Come Crash” from his 2004 Matador solo debut “The Slow Wonder,” accompanied by a cello, violin, percussion, piano and accordion. The New Pornographers frontman explained a twist of fate about the song (which contains the principal lyric “Christine, come crash on my floor”): he had originally penned the lyrics about an “imaginary girl” but coincidentally got married to a woman named Christine three weeks ago. He then tackled the title track from the New Pornographers’ most recent “Challengers” and a cover of King Missile’s “Hemophiliac of Love.”
Grizzly Bear performed cuts from its latest album, “Yellow House,” often integrating three- or four-part harmonies into its ghostly guitar melodies. The crew also played the song “Marla,” written by one of the members’ great aunts (“a failed singer from the ’30s”) plus covers of folk traditional “Deep Blue Sea” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” Feist was invited to take over lead vocal duties on the hymn-like “Service Bell.”
My Morning Jacket’s James offered an especially poignant, if not bizarre, performance. His pure voice was showcased on songs like “Bermuda Highway” and the new “Wonderful (The Way I Feel),” while “Anytime” and “What a Wonderful Man” were performed on an Omnichord. “Some people like to think this next song is about God,” James quipped before howling through “Gideon,” “but it’s not.” He then inexplicably ran back and forth across the stage before hastily packing away his gear.
Feist read a pair of stories created by children who had made use of the 826 center and then played the understated “The Water,” from her recent “The Reminder,” on piano. Broken Social Scene songwriter Drew was paired with a pianist on BSS’s “Superconnected” and a track from his upcoming solo debut.
Spoon principal Daniel’s three-song set encompassed “I Summon You” from 2005’s “Gimme Fiction” and “Black Like Me” from the new “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” “I don’t know if you knew this about me,” Daniel laughed, “but I used to work at Citibank … which I actually really liked. But I certainly never thought I’d ever be playing on this stage. Thank you.” Recruiting Newman from the wings plus a pianist and drummer, Daniel ended with a cover of Alex Chilton’s “Hey! Little Child.”
The shows also featured performances from comedians Sarah Vowell, Eugene Mirman and Leo Allen. Last year’s inaugural New York Bookeaters event boasted appearances by David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens and Jon Stewart.