Andrew Bird @ Largo at The Coronet, 10/19
"Some people think this song is a stream of consciousness, but it's really about the death of my chickens." said Andrew Bird introducing his song Spare-Ohs off of his new album Armchair Apocrypha. Bird, who is tonight's rock pick (listen to music sample here), went on to tell the charming if slightly morbid tale of his ill-fated 26 chickens that were all slaughtered by some murderous raccoons. In the morning he found their coop empty with feathers floating everywhere. The ravens that lived nearby built nests in Bird's chimney with the feathers of his dead chickens, and then in the winter when he built a fire, the feathers were cremated and spread all over his town. Bird, clearly still torn up over this incident, played a solemn dirge on his violin that looped over and over again as he told his tale. I cannot think of another artist today that would write an ode to his dead chickens.
Nor can I think of an artist today who would dedicate an album to natural phenomena and the wonder of nature, but Bird has. He has dedicated his latest work to all things great and small. From natural disasters in Fiery Crash to the microscopic in Imitosis Andrew Bird is fascinated by the world around us. He has even written an ode to the Texas blind salamander, a blind, pale thing, that lives deep in the recesses of caves that he saw on an episode of Planet Earth. A connection he admits with a smile is a bit troubling, "I am unsure why I sympathize with this creature, but I do." What a gift it is to have an artist that writes about something other than human relationships. In a universe this vast, surely we have other things we could sing about other than the fact that we are in love or out of love with each other.
For those who haven't had the privilege of seeing Bird live, let me tell you it is a exhilarating experience. You watch him build his songs from simple plucking on his violin for the base beat and rhythm, to the undercurrents of the bass that he outlines with his violin, followed by whistling and clapping to highlight the song, and finally guitar and vocals. Bird creates his music with a precision that only comes from someone who is anal retentive about his music quality. By all rights Bird should have at least four musicians backing him up, but instead he wants to create the entire thing himself. Also if he feels he is not satisfied with the way the song is progressing, Bird has no qualms about starting the song over from the beginning, as he did several times last night. Which is not to his detriment. It is a pleasure to see someone who is wholly committed to their art, mind, body, and soul. There is no inch of his music that Andrew Bird doesn't know intimately and is dedicated to perform perfectly. Imperfection will not be tolerated.
And it is gorgeous to listen to. If you can, indulge yourself and go to the Largo at The Coronet this evening at 8:30 for a night of music that one rarely sees. An artist that can deliver his distinct worldview to an audience that sits quietly and soaks in his majesty while allowing their imaginations wander over chickens, salamanders, hurricanes, and microbes.
Sidenote: Largo has moved to La Cienega from Fairfax.