Monday, December 10, 2007

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird at the Warfield, December 8 2007

Among the "essential" genres of music that I'd hate to live without, the top three are 80s hardcore punk, golden age hip hop, and delicate, pretty indie folk. My girlfriend hates punk rock and hip hop. Luckily we have common ground with artists like Andrew Bird.
The Warfield was full of a diverse audience that included arty types, older types, a few hippie types, and a bunch of college kids. The show started around 8:30pm with the Handsome Family, who play mellow Americana. They were interesting, but their mellow, quiet music was a hard sell to a polite but apathetic crowd that just wanted to hear Andrew Bird.

He went on around 9:30pm. The stage was set up with a Persian rug and two phonographs in the background, including one that spun. Mr. Bird, dressed in a three-piece suit, took off his shoes and started wailing on his violin. He had a set up where he could record and loop pieces of music, so it ended up sounding as if there were several violinists and not just himself. Feist had a similar set up, and while it is a little distracting, it allows the artists to have a larger sound. I couldn't help thinking that hip hop acts could use a similar set up to make their live shows more dynamic and less like dudes talking over records.

Mr. Bird is an eccentric performer, spazzing out , contorting his body, and generally putting his all into the performance. When his band came out (a bassist and a drummer/organist), they went into his catalogue, doing versions that were different but recognizable. The sound was amazing, and I realized that in some ways it is much more interesting to see a more mellow band like Andrew Bird's than to see a band that uses a lot of distortion. When the instruments aren't covered up by a wall of effects pedals, you can actually hear every note that the artists are playing, and watch them as they put the song together. In this day and age of downloaded files where we are increasingly alienated from the actual people making the music, seeing it live is a reaffirming and important experience. It was also nice being in a packed house full of people who shared the same love of Andrew Bird's music. This wasn't a scenester crowd, or full of people who wanted to get loaded and hear the big hit.

It was a great show, and Andrew Bird proved himself to be a dynamic and talented performer. It made me feel somewhat old that I'd rather listen to mellow chamber pop from the comfort of my assigned seat, but whatever.

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