I was first introduced to Andrew Bird around this time last year, when Macaulay @ Hunter student activist/graphic designer/founder of Arts Night/general wunderkind Tyler Alterman sent me the song “Tables and Chairs,” referring to my personal belief that one of the underrated priorities for making the Macaulay Building into a student center was to have snacks. That story’s neither here nor there at this point, but that was where I first heard Bird, an incomparable multi-instrumentalist. This is probably best seen in one of Vincent Moon’s “Take-Away Shows,” with Bird performing “Weather Systems”:
For starters: he plucks and strums a violin. HE BASICALLY MAKES A MANDOLIN OUT OF A VIOLIN. And it just comes together so well – he’s a more-than-adequate vocalist, but it’s made better by his pretty damn incredible violin playing and whistling. This synergy is made manifold when he performs live in settings other than the streets of Paris, where he utilizes live looping (often along with percussionist and collaborator Martin Dosh), making himself a one-man band on guitar, glockenspiel, and whistling, not to mention myriad uses of his violin, as seen here with a live version (once again, oddly enough, in Paris) of “Imitosis” off of the 2007 album Armchair Apocrypha,
Much like Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs (their latest album, W h o k i l l, is great in its own right, though that’s another post), Bird and Dosh layer one riff on violin or drums (or glockenspiel, or of whistling) over another to create the sense that there’s a multitude of performers on stage – a process which takes great skill when it comes to knowing when to play the different loops.
This fawning over Bird’s live work is not to say his recorded work is anything to sneeze at – it’s remarkable on its own, as with “Anonanimal” off of Bird’s latest album, 2009’s Noble Beast:
Andrew Bird will be playing live, for free, to kick off this summer’s iteration of Celebrate Brooklyn, on Friday at 8:15 at the Prospect Park Bandshell. More info here.