06 May 2007

Andrew Bird @ Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Ore., 05/04/07

Volume Knob: showing our affection one sock at a time

Volume Knob prides itself as a serious music blog for serious music fans. What better way to demonstrate this than writing our URL and miscellaneous notes of affection on a pair of striped socks, stuffing them into my bra, then pulling them out and tossing them onstage at opportune moments, while yelling things like "Take off your SHOOOOEESSSS!"? Yet this is precisely what I did last Friday night after a two-hour drive to the City of Roses.

Andrew Bird at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon, Friday, May 4, 2007

Let's back up:
The opening act, Apostle of Hustle from Toronto, started about 15 minutes late, but put on a great show, despite breaking some key rules: "If you're a drummer and join a band that already has a drummer, then you're an asshole," says comedian Todd Barry. These Canucks would be well to take note, but it's an irrelevant point during long but inspired instrumental stretches with driving beats and more than a hint of Spanish flair. The gratuitous Powell's Bookstore name-dropping and mentions of drug use and death to current political leaders of the US and Canada opened up the crowd a bit. These guys were gooooood.

Andrew Bird playing glockenspiel and whistling

Yet there still seemed to be a rift between musician and audience by the time Andrew Bird was well into his set. Much of this is derived primarily from audial experience, seeing that, as one of the shortest people in the audience, I was naturally stuck standing behind a fellow more than a foot taller than me. Thusly by the time I pleaded for Bird to remove his shoes (about three songs in) I was met with a matter-of-factly "Already did!" as Bird lifted up his right leg, almost ballet-style, so we could see his black sock-clad foot.

Andrew Bird investigating the source of his newly besocked amp

Despite a tough crowd in an uncomfortably hot room and a handful of technical snafus throughout the set, Bird did his charmingly best to rouse the audience to deafening cheers by the end of the long set.

In the midst of the head-bangingly powerful rock-driven performance, Bird indulged my request for "Dr. Stringz" with note of a few other instruments he fixes ("zither...harpsichord...lute?") before transitioning directly into an extended rock-out version of "Fake Palindromes."

Andrew Bird as Dr. Stringz

Much of the material highlighted the best of Armchair Apocrypha, with a few other favorites from Mysterious Production of Eggs: "Fiery Crash," "Plasticities" and "Simple X" blended seamlessly After the raucous opener "Imitosis." The slowly roused crowd finally came it its feet after the Yes, yes, this rocks!/No, no, don't stop a-rockin'! favorite "Skin Is, My."

Andrew Bird whistling into some cone shaped instrument

In short, it was an impeccably performed set by a an impressively technical and creative musician. Using all musical resources available including whistles, hand claps, and an occasionally malfunctioning looping machine, he created a powerful soundscape of strings strummed, plucked and hammered. With a sensual, conversational quality to spoken word moments, the powerful sounds of an entire strings section (created by layering his violin) contrasted gorgeously.

For those of you lucky enough to attend Western Washington University, Bird will be playing there tonight at the Viking Union lounge!


Megan said...

So... Awesome... I am without words...To express the awesome... (And the envy. Oh, the envy!)

Ana S. said...

It does sound awesome beyond words. I'm seeing him in less than a month, though, so I'm more excited than jealous.

Parisian Cowboy said...

I can't wait to seem live in Paris....

Anonymous said...

I taped this show, but you may know that. You can get it here: http://www.archive.org/details/abird2007-05-04.aud

- JC