Remember that scene in Animal House where Bluto is at the toga party and this bearded guy in a turtleneck -- listed in the credits as "Charming Guy With Guitar" -- is singing "I Gave My Love a Cherry," and Bluto grabs the guy's acoustic and smashes it to smithereens and then shrugs and deadpans "Sorry "? As a kid, that scene always left me as conflicted as the contrite Bluto apparently was. On the one hand, I felt sorry for the Charming Guy, whose beautiful music was so rudely and completely brought to an end. On the other, I totally understood where Bluto was coming from, as the Charming Guy so did not rock. And I feel just as torn at Iron & Wine shows. Iron & Wine -- the alter ego of Miami cinematography teacher Sam Beam -- is a bearded and charming twentysomething guy with a guitar, a whispery set of vocal cords best suited for lullabies, and the ability to make achingly gorgeous, timeless folk, albeit with lyrics straight from a very stoned creative writing seminar. It's all beautiful, really. And that's all well and good, but the vibe at his shows can be oppressively poignant and intimate. Even though it can rock in a hushed way at times, Beam's brand of modern hipster folk music is tranquil, and the crowd more so -- they've been known to gather around the stage and sit cross-legged and sway with eyes closed. Call me detached -- or say I have attachment disorder or Tourette's syndrome or I'm just an asshole or whatever -- but stuff like that makes me feel the way I did as a kid, when I'd raise my head and peek at people praying during Mass. Evil and naughty, like I want to run up and grab a guitar and smash it or something like that.
Sam Beam: A charming guy with a guitar.
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