Mark Kozelek’s surly banter, control obsession effects at GAMH


By Mike Frash //

NOISE POP 2014 //
Mark Kozelek (of Sun Kil Moon & Red House Painters) //
Great American Music Hall — San Francisco
Saturday March 1st, 2014 //

“I don’t give a fuck about Noise Pop,” said surly 47-year-old control freak Mark Kozelek at Great American Music Hall Satuday, one of the first piercing, dry stage banter remarks he made. Always honest and amusing in an odd way, much like his music, Kozelek turned between-song breaks into hilarious and awkward moments as a matter of routine.

He was happy to see the audience wasn’t as geriatric as Bob Mould’s Noise Pop show Thusday, which the Sun Kil Moon frontman attended. He noted Mould was in attendance Saturday, along with singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez, which he mentioned twice. He admitted that being able to walk home 10 blocks and pick up a quick ten thousand dollars for this performance was better than going to “fucking China or dreary old England” to perform. Half man, half alley cat, Kozelek spewed venom at a variety of show-goers and subjects, all in a concerted effort to keep control of the room during his touching, sad songs.

A full media ban was in place — we were warned upon entry that there would be no warning. If phones came out, you would be escorted out of the Great American, no questions asked. It quickly became clear this was Kozelek’s personal wish, even though he didn’t mention the rules of the night. He admitted early that he’s used to “at least one asshole hating and heckling” him, which explains his aggressive nature and the way he makes examples out of those in attendance. He even rewarded someone named Javier with one of everything from the merch table for hushing and stepping in front of two women who had been talking.

Kozelek is so brutally affected by his immediate surroundings. He counted and pointed out 12 men in the front row, harking to the lyrics from “Sunshine in Chicago” (“Now I just sign posters for guys in tennis shoes”). It’s easy to see how he’s constantly inspired to craft songs — based on self-reflective lines from his work and the events of this evening, it’s how he channels his thoughts.

The banter lent a bit of levity against the dead-serious storytelling from his incredible new Sun Kil Moon record Benji, which was almost played in its entirety to start the show (final track “Ben’s My Friend” was the only cut missing). Before launching into “I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same”, something rather extraordinary happened. He looked at a young male fan in the front and asked why he had headphones on his head. Then Kozelek forcefully stated, “You look like a fucking douchebag”, filling the venue with tension and a bit of laughter. This happened right before playing a track about coming to terms with once bullying a kid on the playground in his youth. In the song he discusses the incident, “though I grinned, deep inside I was hurting.” It appears this whole incident was a creative, effective way to foreshadow and show his contradictory nature, as opposed to him being horribly passive aggressive.

The second half of the show highlighted the rest of Kozelek’s most recent efforts from the past two years. It seems all the selections were related to one of two themes, the Bay Area and death, which was a logical way to continue a show that began with the coping, grimly-themed Benji. Though I’m sure many in attendance would have enjoyed some Red House Painters tunes.

The evening and performance offered a stack of new ammunition for Kozelek to write about after his 10-block walk home. It’s possible the events at Great American might make his next record, as his music is a personal diary inverted, projected to the world, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it come out sometime later this year. As he said before his last song “Among The Leaves” — “Just don’t follow me home.”


  1. I was at this show as well. Great review, just a few notes:
    -Bob Mould and Jose Gonzalez weren’t really in attendance, Kozelek was just making jokes.
    -Kozelek didn’t play all of Benji, he didn’t play “Pray for Newtown” for instance.

    I enjoyed the hell out of this show, particularly the non-Benji stuff he played. “Gustavo”, the “song about a Mexican contractor who fucked up my house”, was a gem.

    • Nice points. I bought in hard then on Mould and Gonzalez. How do you know he was joking? I’m curious. “Gustavo” was very memorable, classic SF Koz Storytelling. Benji tracks were played in order — most songs were played.



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