Bon Iver didn't hit the stage until around 6:00 AM, but that didn't stop a sea of bundled up fans from bringing their blankets (and at least one sighted Aero Bed) to relax, drink wine, watch Planet Earth projections on the mausoleum wall and listen to atmospheric music chosen by Justin Vernon to set the mood. As daylight approached, one by one the painfully-hip crowd began sitting up, awakened by a Buddhist blessing ceremony. They then turned to the stage, where the band's gentle guitar strains and Vernon's resounding vocals echoed among the tombs.
Vernon ended the show with a thankful and cryptic, "Let's do this again, maybe, or maybe never again," a statement which perfectly sums up why the experience— and Hollywood Forever—made for such a memorable evening (or morning, in this case). It's rare that you can say you've seen a live show in the company of Cecil B. DeMille with sound that carries perfectly outdoors, and a respectful crowd seemingly hypnotized by their surroundings.
For acts of Springsteen's ilk, the downtown Staples Center is the venue of choice, while Pitchfork-friendly artists often opt for The Wiltern. But what neither place offers is intimacy, or even optimal sound quality at times, owing to their large size. Hard-core concertgoers know that the best live experiences are often shared with a small audience under unique circumstances. Though we've never heard of another sunrise show at the cemetery, other artists have—and continue to—use it as a venue.
The cemetery is famous for housing the crypts and headstones of Hollywood stars, and for hosting summertime movie screenings. Concerts among the dead aren't common practice everywhere, but last Sunday, the combination of fog and the delirium of an audience that began trickling in at midnight made for an ideal music setting.
Where To Park:
Getting there by car is easy enough, but parking is not. There are some neighborhood restrictions, but if you are persistent and can deal with circling the surrounding area a few times, you'll probably luck out. Hollywood Forever does offer limited on-site parking, but you'll end up sitting in traffic while hundreds file out post-show. The organizers also offered additional parking at one of Paramount's lots around the corner, but we found a spot just a few blocks away. Public transit is also another option, and you can go here to look up routes and running times, depending on where you're coming from.
Where To Stay:
If you're visiting from out of town and are stopping by the cemetery, too, the natural hotel fit is the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt (rates average $225/night), known for being the former "playground" of stars like Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, while just two weeks ago Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke stopped by for a surprise DJ set at The Tropicana. It's not too far by cab, and you're even luckier if you opted to rent a car.
Where To Eat:
For this show, the food situation wasn't so much about where to fuel yourself before the concert, but where to stumble into in the unusually foggy morning hours. We opted for breakfast at Joan's On Third, ordering a shared meal consisting of an herb omelet, yukon gold potatoes, a strawberry buttermilk muffin, and fresh fruit, with a mocha and earl grey tea to drink. Joan's was the breakfast joint of choice for other Bon Iver survivors, too; we spotted a good handful of others with matching yellow paper wristbands among the 8:00 o'clock crowd. Rewarding ourselves with this early morning organic spread seemed like the perfect way to end (or begin, rather) a morning that seemed almost too magical to be true.
· Hollywood Forever Cemetery [Official Site]
· The Hollywood Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music [Jaunted]
· Live Music coverage [Jaunted]
[Photo: Heidi Atwal]