Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bird & Bordello

Today I'm off to Vancouver for the long weekend and checking out two exciting concerts: Andrew Bird & Gogol Bordello. In August 2005, I checked off Ben Folds and The White Stripes from list of must-see-artists-before-I-die gigs and said "Next up, Andrew Bird and Harvey Danger". The following summer, I checked The Dresden Dolls and The Living End off the list. This was another good summer, adding 5 more White Stripes dates and having seen the Squirrel Nut Zippers for the first time. And now I'll get to make good on that vow to see Andrew Bird (Harvey Danger will have to wait until possibly later this year when I move closer to Seattle).

[An unexpected X-mas gift from Andrew Bird. I've yet to decipher the chicken scratches under his signature.]

In a nutshell, I jumped on the Andrew Bird bandwagon after I went through all the Squirrel Nut Zippers CDs at the library and started delving into their extended musical family tree. Andrew Bird was dubbed an honourary member of the Zippers, though I'm not entirely sure about the distinction since he played on practically every album and toured with them. In any event, he put out a couple albums of old style jazz albums with his band Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire. It was 2001's The Swimming Hour that really blew me away with several outstanding songs that rank among my top iTunes playcounts. It was quite a departure from his earlier jazz/swing albums, exploring several different genres but always putting his distinct mark on it. Strangely, this album has been criticized for being too derivative due to its mélange of styles and was even dubbed by some fans (this really floors me) for being too commercial. I imagine that was just a kneejerk reaction from fans of his early material, thinking he was going to do remake those first two albums forever and ever. In fact, I think it's this album where he's starting to find his own distinctive voice that would evolve into his later albums.

The Swimming Hour (2001)
Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - Case in Point
Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - 11:11

His last three albums are Weather Systems, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, and this year's Armchair Apocrypha. This is where we start to see a shift in his music to a more experimental, eclectic, indie... well, it's difficult to classify except it's distinctly Andrew Bird. At this point, I'd advise just listening to his music and see where it takes you since my words will not do it justice.

The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)
Andrew Bird - Opposite Day
Andrew Bird - Skin Is, My

Armchair Apocrypha (2007)
Andrew Bird - Heretics

And I haven't even talked about his live show, which should prove to be incredible. He's known for extensive use of the looping pedal to construct songs out of thin air by himself, though in the past year or two he's enlisted Martin Dosh as a percussionist. I wonder if he still plays his older stuff... I'm hoping so, but I doubt it.

Something interesting I discovered the other day... Final Fantasy (AKA Owen Pallett) posted on a message board about meeting Andrew Bird and discussing the inevitable comparisons people make (myself included) between the two and also Patrick Wolf (who I admittedly haven't heard). Apparently Andrew complimented Owen on his "'Nervous Tic' rip-off". Now this piqued my interest and after looking into it, I found this:

Cadence Weapon with Final Fantasy - Sharks (live)
On the CBC Radio show Fuse, two seemingly incongruent musical acts are thrown together. Here, local Edmontonian hip-hop artist Cadence Weapon raps over music provided by Final Fantasy, which is in fact sampled from Andrew Bird's Imitosis and A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left. Hearing that totally made my day.

OK, I'm going to have to wrap this up so I can catch some ZZZ's before I catch my plane. The other concert I'm going to which should be another unreal experience is Gogol Bordello, whom I posted about before in February. I first caught wind of the band last year when I saw Wristcutters: A Love Story at the Edmonton Film Fest. In the film, one of the lead characters was inspired by Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz and their music was featured as well. Then I would later see Eugene Hütz himself in Liev Schreiber's film Everything is Illuminated starring opposite Elijah Wood. Tickets for the show were an unbelievable $17.50 each, but it took me so long to confirm time off from work that it was sold out and I had to get them off eBay. I wasn't completely gouged, but it would've been nice to get them at face value in the first place.

Gogol Bordello - Sally
Gogol Bordello - Mishto

Madonna featuring Gogol Bordello - La Isla Bonita
There's a video from this year's Live Earth concert (I think it was taken off youtube, but you can google it elsewhere), where Madonna specifically invited Gogol Bordello members Eugene Hütz and Sergey Ryabtsev to help perform a remix of her classic song La Isla Bonita. It was completely surreal. While Madonna and her crew of male model back-up dancers pranced about their carefully choreographed routine, the real stars were Ryabtsev on violin, injecting some life into the performance, and a lanky, bug-eyed, mustachioed Hütz strumming and dancing as though he was a madman caught on the wrong stage and didn't care. Eugene is also starring in Madonna's directoral debut, a short film called Filth and Wisdom, which required him to dress in drag. Madonna asked him "How do you feel about dressing up as a woman?" to which he replied "Well, as long as it's a woman with a moustache, I'm there."

See you next Wednesday.

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