Things you learn at a Gezellegheid show: Andrew Bird’s broken his nose five, maybe now six times. Trivia, for those of you who like those things. There’s a context for this, but you almost had to be there, and I’ve also sworn not to make any bird puns over the topic.
Potential medical complications aside, these shows — Bird’s mostly annual holiday-time tradition in Chicago and other major cities — are Bird’s playground, his chance to really dig into music, experiment with new melodies, and figure out what direction he’s taking his music to next. The Gezellegheid shows are where some of the earliest incarnations of songs that wound up comprising Break It Yourself were shown off, and he revisited some of those ideas last night at Fourth Presbyterian Church. ”Eyeoneye”, the lead single from the new album, had its roots as an instrumental song called “Oh Baltimore”. It took a while for the much louder, more typically-indie-rock revamped album version to grow on me, as I loved the stripped down instrumental version I’d been hearing. Having the chance to hear it in its original form once more was a huge bit of excitement for me.
We’re continuing to see the deconstruction of Bird’s older songs as he takes them apart and makes something new out of them. He also debuted a few new songs, one which is just a melody with no words yet, and one based on a melody that he was playing with at last year’s MCA shows (they took the place of the Gezellegheid shows in Chicago) and has now gone back and set words to.
While these shows have been traditionally solo affairs in the past, this year, Bird brought some help. He was accompanied by bassist Alan Hampton for much of the show (on upright bass and guitar), and frequent collaborator Nora O’Connor on vocals and guitar for much of the second set.
The first night of Bird’s three night stint at Fourth Presbyterian was exquisite. I remarked after the show that usually the first night is more uneven, like Bird’s still finding his footing. Based on this, he’s already got it down; I can only hope this means the next two nights will take us to even more transcendent places.
Hole in the Ocean Floor
Instrumental > Naming of Things lyrics
Three White Horses (instrumental version)
Giant of Illinois (the Handsome Family cover)
Instrumental (Skin Is My riff)
New Song (untitled, w/ AH)
Fatal Shore (w/ AH)
Trimmed and Burning (w/AH)
Give It Away (w/ NO, AH)
Three White Horses (w/ NO, AH)
Lusitania (w/ NO, AH)
If I Needed You (Townes Van Zandt cover, w/ NO, AH)
Something Biblical (w/ NO, AH)
The Sad Milkman (Handsome Family cover, w/ NO, AH)
Minneapolis isn’t Andrew Bird’s hometown, but it might as well be. He was welcomed to the stage on Monday night like he was a native son. Of course, it helps that he has long-standing ties to the music community here: Martin Dosh has drummed/percussed/gadgeted for Bird since 2004 or so, with Jeremy Ylvisaker joining later on guitar. Mike Lewis, another Minneapolis son, played bass and assorted woodwinds in Bird’s band for several years; he’s back with Bon Iver and other projects now, including Fat Kid Wednesdays, the jazz trio which opened for Bird at the State Theatre.
So, no, Andrew Bird might not be a Twin Cities guy, but that didn’t matter to the crowd. Bird, who isn’t really touring in support of any particular album — the Hands of Glory not-quite-EP-not-quite-LP came out in October, but Bird just tours non-stop no matter what he’s really got going on. The setlist was heavy on tracks from Break It Yourself, but as always, Bird peppered the show with tracks from his back catalog, both in their original forms and slightly altered ones.
The first half of the show seemed a bit sluggish. Not sluggish in the way that a casual fan or infrequent concert-goer would necessarily recognize, but one that a repeat customer (this was Bird show #25 for yours truly, by my count) would be more apt to pick up on. The tempos seemed to lag a bit behind their normal speeds, both on the record and live. It wasn’t bad — I’ve yet to see a bad show from Bird and am kind of convinced at this point that he’s such a consummate performer as to be incapable of it — but it just felt… too easy. It didn’t feel like there were risks being taken. It felt safe, which is an unfamiliar feeling for an Andrew Bird show.
Not to say that there weren’t any surprises during that first part of the show. An extended instrumental segment after the “Hole in the Ocean Floor” incorporated some of the lyrics to “The Naming of Things”, turning it from a brief little indie rock song into something more meditative. ”Fiery Crash”, always a favorite, was accompanied by very appropriate stage lighting, bathing the back screen in reds, yellows, and oranges. (Bird’s lighting design for live shows is always spectacular, and this show was no exception. Kudos to you, lighting designer.) The breakdown section in “Danse Caribe” — where it turns into a near hoedown for a verse, then something more African influenced — is always a highlight, with Bird’s more traditional violin work contrasting nicely with Ylvisaker’s space-y guitar work.
A little after the halfway point, Bird, Ylvisaker, and Alan Hampton on bass crowded around a solo mic at the edge of the stage for the “old timey” segment that’s become tradition for Bird concerts. The band unplugs and performs acoustically, sound being picked up solely by that one microphone. It’s always a highlight for me because it helps show that these men are all phenomenally talented musicians. The looping and effects pedals make for an interesting, technologically challenging show, but stripping away the gear leaves just voices and instruments, and it’s there that Bird and company soar. (Bird pun only slightly intended.)
The acoustic set featured two covers: “When That Helicopter Come”, originally by the Handsome Family, and “Meet Me Here at Dawn”, by Cass McCombs. Both were fairly stunning performances, particularly the Handsome Family cover — Bird always tends to give their songs a very emotional resonance which may not always hit listeners of the original versions. ”Meet Me Here at Dawn” has been done by Bird solo at shows, but never as a full band; for it being the first time they played it as a group, it sounded pretty solid to me. But the true highlight of that acoustic set – and perhaps my entire tenure as That Weird Lady Who Basically Goes To See Every Andrew Bird Show In The Midwest – was hearing “Sovay”. It’s one of my earliest favorite songs of Bird’s, and I’d despaired of ever hearing it live. I mean, come on, twenty-plus shows and it still hadn’t made an appearance, even in shows where he more heavily mined his back catalog than usual? I’d given up. My grin couldn’t possibly have gotten any wider for that entire song. Look, the rest of the show could have been a flop (it wasn’t) and that one song would have left me floating the whole night.
Bird returned to the full band set-up for the final few songs, alternating between upbeat (“Plasticities”, “Tables and Chairs”), laid-back (“Fatal Shore”) and, well, kind of foreboding in its own special way (“Three White Horses”). I’ve been following “Three White Horses” for a while, since it began popping up in a few shows earlier this year, and it’s become a song which I can listen to on repeat for a very long time, so I was very pleased to finally get to hear it live.
After the typical closer of “Tables and Chairs,” Bird and company returned to the stage for their encore, gathering once more around the old-timey mic for two more songs. ”If I Needed You” is a Townes Van Zandt cover which Bird has been playing live for a while now, and “Some Happy Day” is a cover of a Charley Patton tune. (Look up the original some time, it’s drastically different in speed.) ”Some Happy Day” in particular gives Bird the always-welcome opportunity to let loose with his traditional fiddle chops, digging in and soaring on the solos.
There wasn’t any new ground broken at this show, but that’s not what we were after. Overall, the show was a laid-back affair, perfect for a cold Minnesota evening: just enough to get your blood pumping before easing you back into a gentle sort of lull.
Hole in the Ocean Floor
Instrumental > The Naming of Things riff
Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left
Orpheo Looks Back
Give It Away (acoustic)
When That Helicopter Comes (acoustic; the Handsome Family cover)
Meet Me Here at Dawn (acoustic; Cass McCombs cover)
Railroad Bill (acoustic)
Three White Horses
Tables & ChairsEncore
If I Needed You (acoustic; Townes Van Zandt cover)
So this blog has been on a bit of a hiatus — real life took over for me in a big way and I just haven’t had the time to devote to the site. I’m hoping to give it a kick in the pants at the new year, so keep an eye out for that. Meanwhile, I couldn’t let the moment pass without sharing a song from a great new-to-me artist. A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to a video from Luke Winslow-Smith, and I was instantly smitten. Check it out.
Winslow-King’s a young guy who has a timeless sound. He pulls together elements of dixieland jazz, gospel, and country and makes something beautiful. He was very recently signed to Chicago’s Bloodshot Records, who will be re-releasing his most recent album, The Coming Tide, in March 2013. Look forward to much more great music from Winslow-King.
For fans of: Justin Townes Earle, Robbie Fulks, Thrills-era Andrew Bird, Preservation Hall Jazz Band
The blog’s been quiet lately — sometimes life gets like that, you know — but I’d be remiss in not popping back up to share with you a new song from Whitehorse, the combined husband-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland.
I don’t have much, but I am a rich man.
Like all of Whitehorse’s music, this song is sexy. I don’t know how they do it, but you put Luke and Melissa together and oof, sign me up. Their most recent album, The Fate of the World Depends on this Kiss, is out now on Six Shooter Records. Catch them at Schubas on October 13th. I’ve seen them several times now and they always put on an amazing show.
So the blog’s been on a little bit of a hiatus lately, and these playlists have sort of been lurking in my draft folder. Time to release them for public consumption.
July 27, 2012
9:53 PM The Antlers • Endless Ladder • Undersea EP • ANTI-
9:50 PM My Brightest Diamond • Inside A Boy • A Thousand Shark’s Teeth • Asthmatic Kitty
9:45 PM Apostle of Hustle • My Sword Hand’s Anger • The National Anthem of Nowhere • Arts & Crafts
9:41 PM Baroness • Psalms Alive • Yellow & Green • Relapse
9:37 PM Sweep the Leg Johnny • Please Give Me Roses Before I Am Dead • Tomorrow We Will Run Faster • Southern
9:32 PM Washed Out • Feel It All Around • Life of Leisure • Mexican Summer
9:28 PM Acrylics • Sparrow Song • Lives & Treasure • Friendly Fire
9:25 PM Deep Sea Arcade • Granite City • Outlands • Ivy League Records
9:20 PM Peter Wolf Crier • You’re So High • Inter-Be • Jagjaguwar
9:17 PM Aberdeen City • Another Seven Years • The Freezing Atlantic • Dovecote
9:15 PM Paper Mice • Banking up the Wrong Tree • The Funny Papers • Three One G
9:09 PM Elvis Perkins • I Heard Your Voice In Dresden • Elvis Perkins In Dearland • XL
9:06 PM King Charles • Love Lust • Loveblood • Republic
9:02 PM Conveyor • Right Sleep • Conveyor • Paper Garden
8:57 PM Hank Williams • Crazy Heart • Settin the Woods on Fire • Recall
8:55 PM Justin Townes Earle • Slippin’ and Slidin’ • Harlem River Blues • Bloodshot
8:52 PM Eleni Mandell • Now We’re Strangers • I Can See the Future • Yep Roc
8:48 PM Brandi Carlile • Raise Hell • Bear Creek • Columbia
8:44 PM The Ben Taylor Band • It’s Only Love • The Legend Of Kung Folk Part 1 (The Killing Bite) • Iris
8:40 PM Communist Daughter • Heart Attack • Lions & Lambs EP • Grain Belt
8:36 PM Stars • What I’m Trying To Say • Set Yourself On Fire • Arts & Crafts
8:32 PM Econoline Crush • Here And There • Brand New History • Restless
8:29 PM Elvis Costello • (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding • The Very Best of Elvis Costello • Polygram
8:26 PM The Hive Dwellers • A Woman Named Trudy • Hewn from the Wilderness • K
8:21 PM Via Tania • Lost In It • Moon Sweet Moon • The Hours
8:18 PM Lucy Wainwright Roche • Mercury News • Lucy • Strike Back
8:14 PM Gold Motel • Always One Step Ahead • Gold Motel • Good as Gold
8:09 PM A Place To Bury Strangers • Leaving Tomorrow • Worship • Dead Oceans
8:01 PM The Devin Townsend Band • Triumph • Synchestra • HevyDevy
August 10, 2012 9:54 p.m. Echo Lake/Wild Peace /Just Kids /Slumberland
9:49 p.m. Eastern Conference Champions /Ameritown /Rabbit Hole/ Suretone
9:44 p.m. Cains & Abels /My Life is Easy/ Stay Home Tonight /Whistler
9:41 p.m. Communist Daughter /Lions & Lambs EP /Speed of Sound /Grain Belt
9:36 p.m. Edith Frost /Wonder Wonder /Merry Go Round /Drag City
9:33 p.m. Dar Williams /Out There Live /Are You Out There /Razor & Tie
9:28 p.m. Rocky Votolato /Television of Saints/ Crooked Arrows /self-released
9:25 p.m. Ormonde /Machine /Blank Slate /Hometapes
9:19 p.m. Melissa Ferrick /Massive Blur/ Honest Eyes /Atlantic
9:16 p.m. The New Pornographers /Electric Version /All For Swinging You Around /Matador
9:13 p.m. Paper Mice /The Funny Papers /Cannon Fodder /Three One G
9:08 p.m. Sloan /Between The Bridges /All By Ourselves /murderecords
9:05 p.m. Baroness /Yellow & Green/ Sea Lungs/ Relapse
9:01 p.m. Rick Springfield /Working Class Dog/ Jessie’s Girl /RCA
8:54 p.m. Kelly Joe Phelps /Roll Away the Stone /See That My Grave Is Kept Clean /Rykodisc
8:50 p.m. Sonny And The Sunsets/ Longtime Companion/ Children of the Beehive /Polyvinyl
8:46 p.m. Title Tracks /It Was Easy /Steady Love /Ernest Jenning
8:41 p.m. Sambassadeur /Migration/ Subtle Changes/ Labrador
8:37 p.m. Eric Copeland /Limbo/ Fiesta Muerta/ Underwater Peoples
8:31 p.m. Fleet Foxes /Helplessness Blues /Grown Ocean /Sub Pop
8:27 p.m. Milo Greene /Milo Greene /Autumn Tree /Chop Shop
8:25 p.m. The Mountain Goats/Tallahassee /Alpha Rats Nest /4AD
8:22 p.m. Zapruder Point /Heads Together /The Shape Of The Machinery /self-released
8:19 p.m. Gold Motel/Gold Motel /In Broad Daylight/ Good as Gold
8:12 p.m. The Ethnographers /The Ethnographers /The Marathon Runner /self-released
8:09 p.m. Ami Saraiya & The Outcome /Soundproof Box/ Cattleprod Hands /self-released
8:05 p.m. Laura Gibson /La Grande /La Grande /Barsuk
8:01 p.m. Twilight Hotel /Highway Prayer /Sand in Your Eyes /self-released
Hey, internet. It’s been a bit of a quiet week around here. I’ve got a bunch of posts drafted up but finding the time to finish them is another matter entirely.
Instead, here’s my listing of great shows this week. Lollapalooza’s here this weekend, in case you didn’t notice, and with Lolla comes some great aftershows. I’ll be absconding away from the city this time around but hopefully you all will find something interesting to see.
Monday, July 30
The Shams Band, Archie Powell & the Exports, Young Hines; Schubas. 8 pm, $6
Tuesday, July 31
Gaelic Storm; Lincoln Hall. 8 pm, $20-25
Wednesday, August 1
Alabama Shakes, First Aid Kit, Dry the River, Filligar; Metro. 7 pm, sold out
Delta Spirit, Fidlar; Lincoln Hall. 9 pm, sold out
Thursday, August 2
Band of Horses, Michael Kiwanuka; Metro. 8 pm, sold out
Kids These Days, OverDoz; Schubas. 9 pm, sold out
Friday, August 3
Blind Pilot, Kopecky Family Band; Lincoln Hall. 11 pm, sold out
Saturday, August 4
Anna Fermin, Edge Fest (Broadway/Thorndale). 1 pm, $5 suggested donation
Doomtree; Empty Bottle. 10 pm, $15
Gary Clark Jr., LP; Schubas. 11 pm, sold out
Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper, Star Slinger; The Vic. 11 pm, sold out
Bombay Bicycle Club, Hey Rosetta!; Bottom Lounge. 11 pm, sold out
Sunday, August 5
The Walkmen; Lincoln Hall. 11 pm, sold out