On Thursday night, Mike and I had a date to go see one of our favorite musicians, Andrew Bird. We bought the tickets months ago, while we were still living in LA, so it was the ultimate in delayed gratification when the night finally came. He was playing at the Paramount Theatre here in Austin, a kind of local landmark that was built in the early 1900s and is absolutely beeeautiful. Walking up, we knew we were in the right place because of all the awkward people in complicated outfits standing outside -- Andrew Bird is one of those musicians that attracts the hipster types.
I frequently discover a new favorite band by going to see someone I like and falling in love with the opening act. In fact, this is how we found Mr. Bird -- he opened for The Decembrists at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. Continuing the good music domino effect, I found the Bird's opener, Lonely Dear, to be thoroughly delightful.
Mike and I spent a good while debating whether or not the lead singer had an accent; it was so very nearly American that we thought maybe we were imagining it. When he admitted to being from Sweden, we sort of smacked our foreheads and said, "Of course!" I rarely pay attention to what a Swedish person is saying because I'm too focused on trying to decide what/if their accent is.
Anyway, they were lovely. I especially enjoyed one song where they had the entire theater sing back-up "da da da da da". It reminded me of my Bible camp days, sitting around the campfire and tacking my little voice onto the big, floating chorus. Except this crowd was really more "drunk and high" than "Deep and Wide."
Andrew Bird himself was straight out of a Tim Burton movie, all long and lanky and Jack the Skeleton King-ish. He was surrounded by freakishly large grammophone-looking dealybobs and whirlygigs. He played the entire show completely solo, but he sounded like an orchestra. He'd record himself playing one instrument, loop it, and then layer other stuff over it. He was constantly tapping pedals with his feet and swapping instruments and whistling and generally one-man-banding like a pro. It must take a superhuman amount of coordination -- I can't even change the radio station while I'm driving without veering into the next lane.
AND Y'ALL! What did he bring out at the beginning of the show for good luck? Guess! Can you guess? It was....
....a GIANT SOCK MONKEY! Some woman in Toronto made a giant sock monkey in his likeness, complete with skinny tie and violin case. He said, "I know it's silly, but you bring it to a couple of shows, they end up being good, and then you can't go on without it." !!!
In fact, there was a lot of sock talk. Early on, he kicked off his shoes for greater ease of pedal-tapping. He looked down and said, "Oh, my new horse socks. You see, there are little horses all over them. It's playful, you know. Like when your ninth grade math teacher would wear crazy ties. It's like that, for socks." Hipsters eat this kind of banter up. (Actually, so do I.)
I can say with no hesitation that Andrew Bird is the first person on planet Earth to make the violin cool. You will be hard pressed to name someone else who plays the violin and is not an overachieving nerd. (Sorry nerds.) He has total command of that instrument and could probably be first chair of any of the world's great orchestras if he weren't so twitchy. But instead he's a super cool, sock-monkey lovin' one-man orchestra, sometimes flipping that violin around and going ukelele style all over it.
I loved every minute of that show, even though I was occasionally preoccupied by his freakish coordination. For those of you in LA who want to do some Bird watching this week, he'll be at The Orpheum this Wednesday the 18th. Start trolling Craig's List, I think it may be sold out.