Smile Politely

Andrew Bird: he’s good at whistling

When I first learned that You and Yourn were opening for Andrew Bird via the magic of Facebook, I was actually on my way to a meeting with Nic Dillon. I was so excited to get there to talk to him about it that I ran out of the house without my keys, locking myself out. Dear reader, beware, there is tremendous bias in this article as I consider Nic and Heather to be some of my best friends. Oh well.

As a non-student, I find the trip onto campus a pain in the ass, and I try to avoid it whenever possible. That, in combination with the yucky, rainy weather of last night, had me considering (albeit for a very short time) skipping the show altogether and curling up on the couch in my sweatpants. But, bound by journalistic duty and loyalty to my friends, I trudged out into the cold dampness. The rewards far outweighed the effort.

Quickly after You and Yourn took the stage, the crowd fell (mostly) silent. With grace, they played their first song through technical difficulties associated with the lighting and the resulting giggles, and charmed the crowd with their signature endearingly awkward stage banter.

As Nic and Heather were discussing the hot Christmas gift items of the year, I heard a girl a few seats down from me whisper to her friend, “He’s so cute!” Congratulations, Nic, you are officially a ROCKSTAR!

Their set showcased cuts off their new album, It Would Make Things Worse, such as the title track, “Double Knots,” “Great Lakes,” and “Sensible Conclusions.” It was amazing to see two people who had worked so hard for so long finally have their place in the spotlight, if even for one night. I was so proud.

After a short intermission, Andrew Bird entered (sporting a red plaid lumberjack flannel and a corduroy blazer, sans leather patches, and jeans) and dove straight into an instrumental. At the end of the song, the crowd cheered as he removed his boots and kicked them behind a speaker.

I admit that going into the evening I was not yet a diehard fan. A few months ago, I purchased his newest album, Noble Beast, and enjoyed it, but I wasn’t familiar with much of his earlier work. Forgive me if I can’t tell you the names of the songs he played.

The stage was adorned with four large “horns” that resembled gramaphone speakers. In the middle, there was a twirling double-horn. It was necessary for an attractive mustachioed roadie to be employed for the sole purpose of steadying said double-horn between each song.

I suppose that I took for granted the amount of strings that composed his songs. He played the violin (either traditionally tucked under his chin or strummed like a bourgeois ukulele) about 75% of the time, making good use of many loop and feedback pedals that were scattered around in front of him. He also added in some touches of electric guitar. And of course, the whistling. He likes to whistle.

Bird was talkative and engaging. At times, while he was dancing around and shaking his floppy hair, he reminded me of Wes Anderson’s would-be kid brother, home from his first semester at college, just plucking at his violin and goofing off. At other times, with his perfect posture and gliding movements of his arm, he was a professional virtuoso.

At one point late in the evening, the universe seemed to shrink into the small smile that was playing at the corner of his mouth. He was truly enjoying the moment, it was almost as if he was standing barefoot in his own living room by himself drawing his bow across four strings insead of under lights in front of hundreds of people.

Ultimately, this is what won me over. Why do we make music? Why do we dance? Why do we go for walks or draw pictures or make delicious food? It is all worthless if we are not completely in love with the process in itself.

Photos by Cody Bralts, except for the horns photo, which was by Lisa Janes

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