On seeing Jens Lekman and a sky phenomenon

On the drive to Bloomington, Indiana to see Swedish pop sensation Jens Lekman, we experienced a hint of what Jens once sang about in the song, "Sky Phenomenon".

you stare at the sky, colors reflecting in your eye
could it be, what they call the northern lights
but here and at this time of year
it's like someone spilled the beer all over the atmosphere

One of the most vibrant and surreal sunsets I've ever witnessed coated the belly of low-lying clouds seven shades of orange. Trees in the distance, all turning colors already, became almost red in tint with bright orange leaves appearing to be aflame. It was simply stunning, one of those rare glimpses of natural beauty that we are afforded in this region where topography has hit the snooze button. Five minutes later, just as we completed our trip through the psychedelic forest, we ran smack into a rainbow. Not a wimpy embarrassed-for-itself rainbow, but a bully of a rainbow, punching through the clouds and arcing through the sky. Tim thought he saw its other leg land in the horizon. Then we saw it, much to our disbelief -- a second rainbow, nowhere near as prominent as the first. We joked that god wanted our trip to see Jens to be a special one, giving us a wink and a nod to Jens' very own song.

I would never recommend going to Jake's in Bloomington to see just any show. For Champaign folks, it's much like a marriage of the Canopy (with its obnoxious screens on either side of the stage) and a crappy campus bar like C.O. Daniels. A sign at the entrance let us know that if we so chose, we could return the next evening for beer pong.

Jens was spectacular. Playing with a 7-piece backing band of mostly women — with a horn and string section and a sampler — he went through a lengthy set of songs from his new record and old favorites. The new stuff really begs to be seen live, where his energy and charisma can work its way inbetween the notes to chart a new course for each song. He neglects his more melancholic material for the brighter moments, then sells the audience with the same sort of witty asides that form the basis for many of his songs. Jens is uplifting in concert. It's fun to watch him hit his stride as he transcends comparisons to Jonathan Richman.

The drive home couldn't have been more a lesson in opposites. While I slept most of the way, I was awoken by a loud thump as we crossed state lines. Tim had run over the remains of a deer that was strewn across most of the highway. A few miles down the road we pulled into a rest stop to determine the damage. I'll spare you the gory details -- of which there are plenty -- and let you know that while Tim's car was by and large unscathed, he did take some of the deer with him.

I don't know what message to take from the night's ending, so I'll leave it be.

If you have the chance — no matter if you are familiar with his music — go see Jens. He's a rare find.