Bird is the Word

It is Thursday, November 29, 2007 and I have just had an art-of-body experience. Justin & I made our way to Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence to see Andrew Bird, violinist extraordinaire, and his experimental band of gypsies perform.

I’m writing about it here because I believe what I experienced tonight was less of a concert and more of a witnessing of event, never to be replicated; fully autonomous. We arrived on time to make sure we got a great spot, and we did. We were about 10 feet from the stage with a perfect view of everything.

Just slightly off center to the right, one could say we were in the Golden Mean of stage viewing. Upon entering the space of the stage we noticed an *insane* drum kit. I don’t even know how to explain it. All of the cymbals were altered. Several of them were cut, welded together, spiraled, shaped and reshaped. One of the spirals was probably five feet high.

This was the kit of percussionist Glenn Kotche. He was a one-man army of sound. He had several different items with which to strike things and a profound number of items to strike. He had no bass drum, but he did have what I believe to be a series of crickets in boxes. I can’t do it any justice by trying to explain it. See it for yourself here.

And while Kotche was a pleasant and welcomed surprise, even more so was Andrew Bird’s brilliant performance. Nothing short of rich and lively was this man who has been sent by heaven’s holy messengers to create performance art masked as music. If you’re not familiar with his work, visit his website and download a couple tracks from Armchair Apocrypha.

First: the set. He has these awesome altered Victrolas. One of them is oversized and on a decorative stand with antiqued wallpaper and these gorgeous little drawing/paintings coming from its darkest parts and spilling outward. Both traditional and progressive, it really spoke to me as an object and as a metaphor of *everything* that should be.

The other Victrola (or gramophone?) was hooked to another one much like what I could accurately describe as a Siamese Victrola which with a pedal he could make it spin really really fast. The drummer played keyboard, too, and the guitarist used some sort of space-age (handmade?) object on his guitar to make special sounds.

At one point, Mr. Bird used a child’s pull toy (A is for Apple or C is for Cow – I couldn’t see the front) for some sort of strange effect. All in all there were three men performing the tasks of at least 9. And the songs were expertly progressive and altered for live performance. While they were still recognizable on some levels and the lyrics remained mostly untouched, the melodies and delivery were bounced around, toyed, altered and – at times -felt even impromptu – yet somehow still cohesive and dedicated.

And it was good they didn’t strictly adhere to the Armchair Apocrypha set. While this album is really great, AB has a long history of experimental, exploratory, and extraordinary music that can fit into almost anyone’s tastes at one point or another.

He didn’t perform “Dr. Strings” but the video is super cute if you haven’t seen it yet. There were some requests for it, and I hadn’t heard of this venture, so when I got home I looked it up and it’s pretty much fantastic. It makes me love him even more (insert big, pulsating hearts in place of eyeballs). If he comes to your town, run to your venue and buy all the tickets you can afford, then give them away to people you love.

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