While the violin and the glockenspiel may not be the first instruments that come to mind when considering indie rock music, Andrew Bird will showcase not only his talent for blending unconventional sounds but also his ability to make old folk and bluegrass modern and danceable at Pickard Theater on Saturday.
The Chicago-based Bird will play courtesy of the Campus Activities Board (CAB) for their annual singer/songwriter concert. Tickets for the show have already sold out, and his performance is anticipated as one of the highlights of the winter season.
"Some of our other options were Josh Ritter, Cat Power, The John Butler Trio, or Feist," said Chester Eng '11, a member of CAB. "After a lot of discussion we decided Andrew Bird would be the best choice because he was up-and-coming but not super well known."
Location was also considered during the initial planning sessions for the concert.
"We knew he was going to play in Maine and seemed to be a really exciting person to bring to campus as our spring singer/songwriter," Eng added.
"CAB was surprised how quickly the tickets sold out," said head of CAB, Katherine Finnegan '09. "We obviously are very excited that such a talented performer will be joining us at the college on Saturday and don't blame students for also being pretty jazzed about it."
Bird began his music career nearly 15 years ago and has since released 11 albums. He graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor's Degree in violin performance, and his earliest albums reflect his academic passion. "Music of Hair," produced in 1996, is a traditional folk album consisting of complex violin melodies and sparse vocals. While extremely different than his later work, the album highlights the fluidity of his talent as a trained violinist. Particularly striking on his first LP are "Nuthinduan Waltz" and "Exile of Erin."
Bird's next two albums were produced with his band, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, which consisted of a rotating group of Bird's hometown friends and members of other bands, such as Squirrel Nut Zippers, with whom Bird had collaborated in previous years. "Thrills" and "Oh! The Grandeur," completed over a period of two years, explored the arena of folk and bluegrass. With an emphasis on jazz piano and loose guitar riffs, these two albums moved Bird in the direction of what would become his signature alt-folk sound. Staying rooted in traditional folk violin, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire still relied on the violin as the main instrument but also included drums, chimes, and Bird's rasping vocal performance.
When Bowl of Fire broke up in 2003, Bird took his music in a new direction as a solo artist. "The Swimming Hour," released in 2001, defined the Andrew Bird sound with an explosion of drums, upbeat vocals, and a less prominent violin. Still true to his folk-rock roots, Bird included bluegrass guitar riffs in songs like "Why" and "Headsoak." For the next eight years, Bird continued to regularly release solo albums including his most recent project, "Noble Beast," which debuted on January 20th. The record, to which Bird adds his impressive whistling capabilities, was quickly ranked 12th on the U.S. album chart. On this album, Bird successfully combined the various elements of his previous LPs. Particularly interesting and catchy tracks are "Oh No" and "Tenuousness."
In addition to his variety of singular musical endeavors, Bird has also been featured on the tracks of more than 30 other artists including Ani DiFranco, My Morning Jacket, and The Verve Pipe. On his way to becoming an indie-rock icon, Bird played a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday night and has also recently performed at The House of Blues in New Orleans and at the Civic Opera Center in his hometown of Chicago.
Andrew Bird will perform at Pickard Theater tomorrow at 7 p.m.