Tag Archives: Andrew Bird
Childhood friends Olivia Hally (vocals and guitar) and Pepita Emmerichs (vocals, fiddle and mandolin) formed the upbeat folk-pop band Oh Pep! seven years ago in Melbourne, Australia. Although the lineup has changed over the years, Hally and Emmerichs continue to guide the sound. And after putting out three EPs—which earned them comparisons to Lucius, Andrew Bird and Lake Street Dive—Oh Pep! (above, doing “Happenstance” for KEXP FM) just released their debut full-length, Stadium Cake (stream it below), last Friday. “Stadium Cake expands on Hally and Emmerichs’ talents, to the point where it surprised me how detailed and intricate they are as both players and listeners. On each listen, I’ve come to find new favorites,” says NPR’s Bob Boilen. “Oh Pep!’s musical instrumentation, as well as their songwriting assure that this album will not be lost to time,” adds Paste magazine. Join in on celebrating the new music when Oh Pep! play Mercury Lounge tonight. New York City six-piece Evening Darling opens the show.
Tags: Andrew Bird, Lake Street Dive, Live Music, Lower East Side, Lucius, Mercury Lounge, Music, New York City, Oh Pep!, Olivia Hally, Pepita Emmerichs, Preview, Stadium Cake, Video
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Andrew Bird – Terminal 5 – April 8, 2016
Typically when Andrew Bird comes to town, he plays an intimate club or the warm environs of a theater or—as he did a few years ago—an actual church. Just the night prior, he performed at the ornate Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. On Friday, however, he was onstage at Terminal 5, a cavernous venue perhaps more suited to a big, lasers-and-smoke dance party than Bird’s subtle indie rock. Quite honestly, it wasn’t clear to me how it would work: Would he be able to command the room and fill it with his unique layers of violins and whistling? Before getting a chance to find out, the already-almost-full room was treated to an excellent set from Boogarins, a four-piece from Brazil that held the audience rapt with their impressive South American psych-prog. Showered in lights of red, purple and mauve, they worked material mostly off last year’s Manual, showing off a heady dynamic range and a propensity for tight jams that had no trouble wining over those in the crowd who cheered the promise of more local gigs in the near future.
Bird and his newish quartet took the stage and after a rafter-filling bit of jazz-noise noodling, opened with “Capsized,” the first track off his just-released LP, Are You Serious?, bassist Alan Hampton and drummer Ted Poor laying into a funky swing, as if to say, “We can do a big dance party, too!” Indeed, from the start, there was no doubt Bird’s sound could fill the room, his chameleonic violin providing eerie atmosphere, highfalutin gravitas and, yes, a healthy dose of groove. Yet just as impressive was his ability to draw in the crowd and turn the room into a gig just as intimate as recent stops at Rough Trade NYC or his cozy gezelligheid shows at Riverside Church.
In the second-song slot, “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” did the shrinking magic trick, Bird singing about when “two substances collide” as if describing the multiple size scales at work in the room, dramatic pauses and gestures like he were telling a story in a bar, his ethereal whistling feeling like it were coming from just inches away. As that number ended, the room fell silent, completely his, as Bird spoke some of the few words he would say all night: “Hello, friends!”
The rest of the set rested heavily on the new album, the band really shining on songs like the title track, Bird’s pizzicato notes cycling through the music while Hampton, Poor and Steve Elliot on guitar brought the groove and the oomph. Of course, older songs brought cheers from the attuned crowd. “Three White Horses,” off 2012’s Hands of Glory, was a showcase for his room-shrinking violin as bright white lights provided a heavenly atmosphere. Perhaps the night’s biggest highlight was “Plasticities” as the immense disco ball created a gorgeous spiraling starlight effect, as if everyone in the room were lying in a sleeping bag under the stars together, sharing the secret of the lovely melody. The show ended in bookend fashion, with the final song off the new album, “Bellevue,” a nice bit of no-tricks indie rock with the repeated lyrics of “by any means necessary.” In lieu of going big with the encore, the band brought down the vibe one more click, playing acoustic around one microphone. The encore centered on the stripped-down “Give It Away,” Bird singing, “Let’s try to keep it in the family,” with his bandmates soaked in a single shaft of light, nothing more intimate than that. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com
Tags: Aaron Stein, Alan Hampton, Andrew Bird, Are You Serious, Boogarins, Gezelligheid, Gregg Greenwood, Hands of Glory, Live Music, Manual, Music, New York City, Photos, Review, Steve Elliot, Ted Poor, Terminal 5
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Singer-songwriter Andrew Bird is as much known for his unique mix of jazz, folk, rock, and Gypsy and chamber music as he is for his classically trained violin skills. Bird (above, performing “Chemical Switches” for Prairie Home Companion) arrived on the scene as a solo artist with the release of his debut full-length, Music of Hair (stream it below), 20 years ago. And he’s remained busy ever since, appearing on a slew of other musicians’ albums while releasing more than 10 live albums, EPs and singles. His 10th solo full-length, Are You Serious (stream it here)—the first since getting married and becoming a father—came out last Friday. The LP features a duet with Fiona Apple and plenty of stellar Blake Mills guitar work. “Given Bird’s classical training and devotion to precision, his work has always had at least the potential to become bloodless and pale—the work of a perfectionist who agonizes over every note, only to let his busy brain mute his own beating heart,” according to NPR Music. “Instead, though, his writing keeps sounding warmer, sweeter, more thoughtful and approachable, while continuing to land lines that stick with you for days.” And with the new album, Bird’s just launched a big tour, which will take him across North America and Europe. But you won’t have to travel too far to see him this week because he comes our way to play Kings Theatre tomorrow and Terminal 5 on Friday. And, trust us, seeing him live will also stay with you for days.
Lo-Fang – Mercury Lounge – November 1, 2014
The classically trained singer-songwriter Matthew Hemerlein produces lush soundtrack-worthy music under the moniker Lo-Fang. Most recently, he had been tapped to perform his cover of the Grease favorite “You’re the One That I Want” in a Chanel No. 5 short film starring supermodel Gisele Bündchen and directed by Academy Award–winning Baz Luhrmann. Not bad company to keep. With a slew of influences from R&B to electronica, it should be noa surprise that Hemerlein’s debut album, Blue Film, was written over a three-year globetrotting journey across Cambodia, London, Nashville, Tokyo and Bali. After making his New York City debut at Mercury Lounge earlier this year, the L.A.-based producer returned to the venue for a sold-out performance on Saturday night.
Those in the crowd waited in the chilly rain but were quickly heated up by the singer’s theatrics. Opening with “Silver,” from his newly released Every Night mixtape, Hemerlein literally kicked off his shoes to work his magic not only on the violin but also on the multitude of pedals beneath his feet. The ladies front and center were in for a treat as Hemerlein lunged closer for the throbbing “Light Year.” Wooing the opposite sex further, Hemerlein covered BOY’s “Boris,” serenading, “You owe me/ Your lips I’m gonna give tips/ And I heard your boyfriend is out of town?” Plenty of his admirers would have happily run away with him. On the title track, he even broke out some push-ups to work out his guns for further flexing throughout the evening. With Lo-Fang’s dramatics checked, his classical training shown through on “#88” as he lithely wove Andrew Bird–like violin plucks into his falsetto.
Nearing the end of the set, Hemerlein returned down the path of seduction for “When We’re Fire,” as his gyrations, straight out of Magic Mike, would make Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey blush. And when this reviewer was mistakenly taking notes, the singer cheekily reprimanded me by pocketing my phone. Boy wants all eyes on him. Lesson learned. To punctuate the evening, Lo-Fang dug deep into the late ’90s with Ginuwine’s “Pony” for a fitting final fling. But despite his female admirers’ desire for more, they were left hot and bothered into the crisp evening air. —Sharlene Chiu
Tags: Andrew Bird, Baz Lurhmann, Blue Film, Boy, Channing Tatum, Every Night, Ginuwine, Gisele Bündchen, Lo-Fang, Matthew Hemerlein, Matthew McConaughey, Mercury Lounge, Photos, Review
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Andrew Bird – Rough Trade NYC – June 7, 2014
There was a time when labeling someone’s music easy listening or adult contemporary was the ultimate put-down, and maybe it still is to some people. I was thinking about this on Saturday night as I watched Andrew Bird lead his new band, the Hands of Glory, through the sold-out early set at Rough Trade NYC. The listening definitely was easy: The quintet felt perfectly constructed to complement the violin and whistling sound. Bird can easily fill a room with sound on his own, so often an entire band can feel like an indulgence, which is exactly what they felt like Saturday, the sound falling comfortably on the cozy side of the cozy/cramped divide. Every sound seemed to find an echo or a resonance, whether it was a three-part harmony with Bird, Tift Merritt and bassist Alan Hampton, or Eric Heywood on pedal steel doubling a violin melody. And with old-fashioned lighting strung up around the stage, the feeling was one of warmth—easy as can be.
With its upright bass, brushes on drums from Kevin O’Donnell, pedal steel, whistling, violin, and the combination of jazz, classical, pop and country, the set was nothing if not adult, the musical equivalent of a glass of moderately priced Scotch to rid your mouth of the taste of another long workweek. The band was celebrating the release of Things Are Really Great Here, Sort of…, an album of Handsome Family covers, and the set featured many of these—including “Cathedral in the Dell” and “Drunk by Noon,” which were highlights—providing the show an old-timey country feel. Bird mentioned that the music was close to him, so much so that the songs felt like his own. And, indeed, he did make them his own, with the violin transforming to fiddle and back again within the same song, Bird’s whistles and brown-butter croon giving each song his distinctive color.
Bird mentioned that the show was the first of the tour and, at times, it felt like the full dress rehearsal before opening night, with a few false starts and missed moments, although each song still managed to feel like a mini-masterpiece, music for grown-ups and easy to swallow all at once. The final few songs were particularly strong, featuring some originals off recent releases, these taking on a reworked energy with the new band. “Pulaski at Night” and “Danse Caribe” were standouts, the band nicely clicking around Bird’s violin as the set closed to soon. —A. Stein
Tags: Alan Hampton, Andrew Bird, Eric Heywood, Handsome Family, Kevin O'Donnell, Review, Rough Trade NYC, Sort of..., the Hands of Glory, Things Are Really Great Here, Tift Merritt
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Owen Pallett – The Bowery Ballroom – May 14, 2014
If you were swept away by the dreamy score of last year’s film Her, you should thank one Owen Pallett. The very talented Canadian composer earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts and follows that accolade with the upcoming release of his fourth studio album, In Conflict, due later this month. Although it was recorded in 2013, the release was delayed due to Pallett’s duties as the violinist for Arcade Fire’s Reflektor tour. We can forgive him for that. With his works largely composed with a violin into a loop pedal, a comparison to Andrew Bird is inevitable, however the detailed thesis for his latest work draws quite a distinction in subject matter. “The record is meant to approach ‘insanity’ in a positive way,” Pallett says in an official statement. “Depression, addiction, gender trouble and the creative state are presented as positive, loveable, empathetic ways of being. Not preferable, per se, but all as equal, valid positions that we experience, which make us human.”
Donning a floral polyester shirt last night, the Canuck opened with “Midnight Directives,” from 2010’s Heartland, to a nearly sold-out Bowery Ballroom, which included Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange and Lightspeed Champion). Pallett had a little false start before “Scandal at the Parkade” and exclaimed, “I’ve lost my mojo and can’t play anymore.” Despite little hiccups, there was no doubting the talent onstage. Pallett dismissed his band as he continued solo, digging deep into his Final Fantasy days for “That’s When the Audience Died,” while the “bummer jam of the night” clearly was “The Passions.” The band returned to rejuvenate the stage with fan favorites “This Is the Dream of Win and Regine” and “The Great Elsewhere.”
Pallett encored with the pair of “Song for Five and Six” and “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt,” but he didn’t really show all his tricks until the second and final encore. Earlier in the set, he denounced covers as “so 2004,” saying that he stopped playing them. But while bantering with fans about the final song, rumblings of Tori Amos arose, and he said he’d need to work it out. Pallett attempted “Pretty Good Year” only to give up and conclude the evening with a cover of Joanna Newsome’s “Peach Plum Pear.” Trading harp plucks for violin plucks, the evening ended successfully and without conflict. —Sharlene Chiu
Tags: Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, Blood Orange, Bowery Ballroom, Dev Hynes, Final Fantasy, Heartland, Her, In Conflict, Joanna Newsome, Lightspeed Champion, Owen Pallett, Reflektor, Review, Tori Amos
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While summer doesn’t technically start ’til June 21st, the summer season kicks off today, with the beginning of Memorial Day weekend. And what better way to do that with a music festival featuring a lineup that kicks all 11 kinds of ass over the course of two days and nights at the Boston Calling Music Festival. Tomorrow’s docket includes fun. (above, performing “Some Nights” on Saturday Night Live), the Shins, Marina and the Diamonds, Matt & Kim, Portugal. The Man, Cults, MS MR, St. Lucia and Bad Rabbits. Not to be outdone, Sunday features the National (below, doing “Bloodbuzz Ohio”), Of Monsters and Men, Young the Giant, Andrew Bird, Dirty Projectors, Ra Ra Riot, the Walkmen, Youth Lagoon and Caspian. Pretty great, right? So what are you waiting for? Head directly to Beantown and spend your weekend rocking out.
Tags: Andrew Bird, Bad Rabbits, Boston Calling, Bowery Boston, Caspian, Cults, Dirty Projectors, fun., Marina and the Diamonds, Matt & Kim, MS MR, Of Monsters and Men, Portugal. The Man, Preview, Ra Ra Riot, St. Lucia, the National, the Shins, the Walkmen, Video, Young the Giant, Youth Lagoon
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Andrew Bird – Riverside Church – December 10, 2012
You knew it was going to be special before the music even started. Walking into Riverside Church, the audience sat in pews under an arched ceiling that was so high it may as well have reached the sky and looked upon a stage filled with so many Victrola horns, big and small like some steampunk public address system, it may as well have been a zillion. The possibilities seemed infinite. Finally Andrew Bird took the stage for the first of two intimate Gezelligheid shows, the solo, instrumental concert that, in the end, was neither solo nor instrumental.
The music started as ethereal, semi-improvised compositions, Bird mixing, sampling and looping violin, glockenspiel and his whistling into music apparitions that weaved through the stone archways of the church, becoming part of the architecture. The music seemed to take on a life of its own after leaving the horns, notes bouncing back and forth against one another, foreshadowing future interactions and eliciting awed silence from the crowd. Bird and the horns cast looming shadows on the walls, adding perfectly to the ambiance, with the bow of his violin the silhouette of a sorcerer casting his wand. Real songs made their way into the set: old songs reimagined, new melodies that weren’t yet songs fully realized and even a Cass McCombs cover. At some point, Bird’s bass player, Alan Hampton, joined in (“You didn’t think I was going to do this all by myself, did you?”), and the duo closed the first set with a strong stretch that included a new song, “Pulaski at Night,” a reworked “Orpheo Looks Back,” off Break It Yourself, and a pitch-perfect “Plasticities.”
After a short break, Bird returned with Hampton and special guest Tift Merritt. The second set provided a nice contrast to the open-ended first, more focused on songs from both Break It Yourself and his newest, Hands of Glory. He described it as an “old-timey” vibe, and the trio huddled together harmonizing around a single microphone. They opened with “Give It Away” followed by a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You,” the tenor of the music slightly more grounded, but the result still simply heavenly. A closing section that included a lifting version of “Eyeoneye” had a little bit of something for everyone sitting silently in the pews. The possibilities were infinite, but the music was real. —A. Stein
(Andrew Bird also plays Riverside Church tonight.)
Jens Lekman – Terminal 5 – October 8, 2012
Pretty much anyone who gets to the point where they’re playing a room the size of Terminal 5 has taken an interesting anecdote-laden path to get there. And his holds true for Jens Lekman, who had the honor of gracing the T5 stage last night and sang and played his way through this journey: an enchanting and endearing set of music and banter. Opening with “Become Someone Else’s,” the Swede worked through most of his new release, I Know What Love Isn’t, with his band in buoyant accompaniment: bass, drums, keys and violin. Through the first half of the show, the storytelling interwove with the music, so that the title track followed a story about not getting married just to get Australian citizenship and “Waiting for Kirsten,” a real-life fable about waiting for Kirsten Dunst in a club in his hometown begat the moral of an ideal where everyone is treated the same.
The songs felt like different episodes from the same sitcom, one “based on true events,” each rolling in and out of Lekman’s pitch-perfect banter. He’s the kind of guy who makes sure a song dedicated to those who have had their hearts broken (“The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love”) is balanced by one for the those doing the heartbreaking (“Some Dandruff on Your Shoulder”). The kind of guy who has a pocketful of confetti ready to throw on the audience at the climax of one song, mug for the cameras before another and play air xylophone along with his percussion samples throughout. With its bouncing bass and purposeful violin melodies framing Lekman’s balladeer voice, the music proved itself to be a descendant of ABBA and the Monkees with a dash of Andrew Bird.
Lekman played a wonderful, almost-solo take on “I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots,” which launched the climactic second half of the show. Here, the stories made way for up-tempo groovers and road-tested segues. “The World Moves On” was a highlight, combining all the elements and strengths of the band, with shifting musical themes and rhythms and some great violin. In a flash of beats from Lekman’s little sample box, this boosted into a high-energy “Maple Leaves” with the Columbus Day crowd discovering its bounce. A pair of horn players joined in for the finale, which kept this momentum going to its natural ecstatic conclusion. As if to sum up the evening in a song, the encore, “A Postcard to Nina,” broke the wall, with Lekman’s storytelling entering the song itself, rubbing elbows with the music and pulling the audience in along with it. Planned or not, Lekman rewarded the gleeful crowd with a couple more songs, solo acoustic, including a warm sing-and-snap-along take on “Pocketful of Money,” which turned the club, he said, into a cathedral. Lekman also told the attentive crowd that he’d be in the city with nothing to do for a couple of days (besides appearing on Fallon and doing laundry), so to e-mail him if there’s anything going on. Certainly new stories—and the songs to go with them—in the making. —A. Stein
Andrew Bird – Radio City Music Hall – June 18, 2009
When the curtain was pulled back at Radio City Music Hall last night, there was a wizard standing there. A real wizard for once: Andrew Bird, with spirals of looping violin curling around his lone figure onstage summoning more and more sound and releasing it into the room until an echoing cacophony filled the chamber completely. His band joined him and this noise became “Sweetbreads,” and the wizard behind the curtain became Willy Wonka. In Wonka’s world, everything is edible. In Andrew Bird’s world everything makes music—hand claps, whistles, violin, xylophone, guitar and, of course, his voice all moving together in a complicated contra dance. I have seen several amazing shows at Radio City, but never have I seen the venue filled with music the way Andrew Bird did: perfectly coating the walls and arching ceiling.
And never have I seen an Andrew Bird show so dominated by his voice, which stood out more prominently than the band and the looping instruments, whistling and all. Through a set consisting mostly of new material, the majority off of this year’s Noble Beast, Bird coaxed his voice and his band, a bit stuttering at first, then more confidently. Things really gelled midway through with a majestic, wall-of-sound “Effigy” followed by a powerful “Nonanimal” and a rollicking “Fake Palindromes.”
As the set wound down, supporting act Calexico, in full—more guitars, pedal steel, xylophone and trumpets—joined Bird and Co. for a climactic one-two-three punch. The 11-strong ensemble took a big sound and made it even bigger, finally exploding with a highlight version of “Scythian Empire.” —A. Stein