April 26, 2007

Andrew Bird & Apostle of Hustle in Boulder

Jesus don’t want me for a sunbeam, as the song goes, and Colorado don’t want me for a juror. After lots of waiting and secretive shuffling to various rooms within the judicial complex yesterday, I was told that they wouldn’t be needing me. The hardest thing I had to accomplish all day was filling out my juror questionnaire: #8 – “What kind of music do you like to listen to on the radio?” followed by a line about this long __________. Don’t they realize that I would need more space than that? I think they wanted a one-word answer. I had to think long and hard on how to answer that one without letting anyone on my iPod down.

Also, I thought the juror video they made us all watch at the beginning of the day was humorously paternal: “Please do not be embarrassed or otherwise upset if you are dismissed from juror selection. This case may not be right for you, but perhaps in the future there will be a jury that is perfectly suited for you.” Thanks for not hurting my feelings, jury people! I was about to cry, but now can I just have a lollipop?

Six of us packed in last night for the drive to and from Boulder to see Andrew Bird and Apostle of Hustle (I truly think the road gets longer every time, especially the dark trip home) with a tin of cookies I made during our recent snowstorm. When we arrived in Boulder, we hit up Illegal Pete’s, which by itself is practically reason enough to make the drive. Mmmmmm. Then onto the sold-out show at the Fox.

Apostle of Hustle was fantastic — really impressive, alternating parts Cuban/flamenco, Cake, and Notwist. I’d heard their name bantied about in association with Feist (contributing one of the remixes on her Open Season album) and Stars (loosely related vibe, they’ve also done some remixes of Stars’ work) but to my distinct loss I had not previously listened to any of their own stuff. Apostle of Hustle is from Canada (frontman Andrew Whiteman, also of Broken Social Scene, was telling a story about Stephen Harper and whispered an aside to all of us in a deliberate sotto voce, as if letting us all in on a secret, “He’s our prime minister…”) and they’re also on Arts & Crafts, which has a stellar track record of bringing me artists I like.

Their music fascinated me – rich melody and chimy harmonics, layers of creative sounds piled one atop the other, imaginative lyrics and arrangements. Their sound has been described as cinematic, Latin-tinged and “smoldering gypsy folk,” but it transcended all of that into something truly original & fresh. I liked that they had two guys holding down the rhythm section – Dean Stone on traditional 4-piece drumkit and Daniel Patanemo working everything from the shakers to the congas to the cymbals and cardboard boxes. Double the rhythm, double my fun.

Lead singer/guitarist Whiteman physically evoked every note he played with a variety of squints, one-legged jumpkicks, and primal writhes, as if someone was invoking The Great Music Voodoo on him and each note brought an invisible pinprick. Visceral to watch, and highly recommended for fans of Stars (like me).

I regret that I wasn’t taping the first few songs because they were heavy on the thumping beats, and I loved that, but these videos will also give you some sense of their fine abilities.
Apostle of Hustle: A Rent Boy Goes Down

Other videos I took last night:
Apostle of Hustle – Haul Away
Apostle of Hustle – Folkloric Feel

Catch Apostle of Hustle on tour if you can (lots of dates and in-stores coming up) and be converted.

National Anthem of Nowhere – Apostle of Hustle
(from the 2007 album of the same title)

Watching Andrew Bird perform, I finally understood the title of his song A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left, as he does that a lot. He is disarming. Diminutive, stick legs, a scarf around his neck, a swath of disheveled hair. In physical appearance I find him reminiscent of the folk-poet fragility of Bob Dylan, with a voice that flat out eerily echoes Jeff Buckley. I had not realized that before in listening to his recorded work, but the way that instrument in his throat soars during concerts, it gave me goosebumps.

Discussion on the way home centered around how his music is so rich & dramatic, and quite esoteric, that one really needs to be focused to fully “get” it. It’s not light pop nor hook-filled, but rather soaring and often-dissonant arias, with screaming violins competing with each other on looped audio while drums crash like waves during a storm.

Truthfully I can appreciate this astounding performance more this morning, with a few hours of sleep under my belt:
Andrew Bird, “Armchairs
And it took about seven false starts to get the loops to Skin Is, My up to Andrew’s exacting specifications (and this video cuts off abruptly after I was chastised by a Fox employee for filming). Pretty phenomenal, with that double-necked phonograph that would set off spinning to loan the stage an Alice-In-Wonderland feel:
A very talented man, for sure, with music that challenges in a good way. My brain felt full by the end.

Skin Is, My (live at Schuba’s) – Andrew Bird

(song from 2005′s The Mysterious Production of Eggs; the new Armchair Apocrypha is also out now)


  • “Lead singer/guitarist Whiteman physically evoked every note he played with a variety of squints, jumps, one-legged jumpkicks, and primal writhes, as if someone was invoking The Great Music Voodoo on him and each note brought an invisible pinprick.”

    I love this description. Nice.

    -tom — April 26, 2007 @ 1:44 pm

  • so freaking jealous. and especially since martin dosh was playing with andrew. thats the best incarnation of andrew’s band

    Don't Need Anything — April 26, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

  • It was great going to the show with you last night! Just the fact that he took his shoes off before he started playing and placed his stuffed monkey on the speakers made me appreciate him long before the first pluck. Love your blog.

    Leora Gardner — April 26, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

  • heather,
    Thanks so much for the Arts-Crafts link. I just enjoyed Amy Millan and loved Jason Collett’s upcoming release “Idols of Exile”, These are the Days, Pavement Puddle Star, Fire…

    That site is for keeps. Here’s the link to Jason.

    I will try on Andrew Bird again tomorrow.

    debs — April 26, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

  • so, what did you write on the “line about this long __________.” ??

    c — April 27, 2007 @ 8:01 pm

  • I’m a new visitor to your blog. I just saw Andrew Bird a week or so ago, here in Ohio. I share your enthusiasm. He whistles magically.

    chris — April 28, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  • You think the road to Boulder is getting longer? Weird, I think just the opposite. When I was a kid, it seemed to take all day just to get to Denver, now it takes less than an hour. The rest of Colorado seems similarly compressed.

    JJ — May 1, 2007 @ 11:09 am

  • JJ – Longer on the way home when it’s dark and everyone else in the car falls asleep? Definitely.


    heather — May 1, 2007 @ 11:10 am

  • just saw the san francisco show. this was the second time i’ve seen him live. truly a performer. i can’t decide which album i like better. mysterious production has some gorgeous arrangements, but he lets his amazing jeff buckley pipes go to town on this album. both are incredible albums. watching him live is enchanting. he went over the opening to skin is, my about 5 or 6 times last night. perfectionism. i feel like so many musicians let the noise take over when they perform, but andrew keeps the silences right where they need to be in order to let his music breathe. memorable show. we missed apostle of hustle, sadly. excited about most things off of arts and crafts.

    MrMr Sam Hill — May 2, 2007 @ 10:51 am

  • Did you ever see him when he had a bowl of fire? The rave-ups with Nora singing were purely ecstatic moments! I’m wishing now that I was in town when he played here next week, this sounds great!

    Mitch — May 5, 2007 @ 10:43 pm

  • Win tickets to Andrew Bird!
    Three pairs of tickets are being awarded to the best paraphrasing of an Andrew Bird song into a haiku! That is, a three line verse stanza consisting of mainly natural imagery (and little to no comment on those images) and with syllable counts of 5/7/5! Be sure to indicate which song your haiku is paraphrasing (in the subject line). Due date May 21 – three winners will win a pair of tickets to an upcoming show (their choice, from May 22 onwards).

    Email your submission – one per person please – to – andrewbirdcontest@gmail.com

    sandpaperhearts — May 16, 2007 @ 1:08 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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