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Andrew Bird w/ Dosh (Thursday, March 10th, Loring Past Bar, Minneapolis)
Andrew Bird - Photo by Cameron Wittig


By Cyn Collins

Thursday’s Andrew Bird show at The Varsity Theater was moved to the Loring Pasta Bar after the Varsity was temporarily closed by city inspections. Varsity operator Jason McLean says he will meet the city’s demands--in this case to widen the stairs to the balcony--and the Varsity will reopen soon. For the inconvenience to music fans, the Varsity provided free EP’s and $10 Varsity Theater Café vouchers.

Just up the street at the Loring Pasta Bar, fans of Andrew bird and opener Dosh improvised seating on steps, sharing tables and perching around the balcony and trees in the cozy, candlelit space. Dosh’s one man show of keyboard and percussion on-the-spot-created loops was the perfect opening set for Bird’s headlining show. Dosh’s arresting process had the audience transfixed. His sublime pop at times grew teeth, incorporating jagged edges and harsh shapes. Occasionally, his carefree Motown-infused music took jarringly ominous turns, and I realized it would make a great soundtrack to an adventure film.

When Andrew Bird took the stage, he began with “Sovay,” from his new CD Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs. Bird’s ineffable music is strange yet hauntingly familiar. He is a delightfully quirky, darkly philosophical composer, a talent monstre. He used his sample pedal to create complex layers of violin beginning with dark, low range to higher melodic harmonies, adding electric guitar, singing, whistling and playing glockenspiel on top of the layers. Tapping the machine with his red and white Dr. Suess striped stocking feet, Bird frequently changed rhythm, mood and intensity of layers, sometimes peeling them off like an onion. It was as intriguing to watch as it was to hear, and nearly impossible to believe one person playing passionate violin, guitar and singing could so smoothly master the mysterious layers of sound.

Before introducing “Why,” Bird apologized, “Sorry we couldn’t do it at the Varsity. It looks like a good place to make out in!” Those of us who’d had the luck to see it laughed in agreement. Bird played a Spanish rhythm on the guitar and by plucking his violin on this song reminiscent of local Mike Gunther’s source material and style. Dark, sleazy fiddle oozed angst. I thought to myself, “He pulls so much out of the violin.” His versatile vocals blended well with his Gypsy fiddle.

Bird called out the new song, “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left,” that he played live on the Current earlier (causing Mary Lucia to comment that he sounded like 6 men). He punctuated the title, affecting said tic, and assuring us, “Everyone should have a nervous tic – it’s sort of a status thing.” The song had catchy nervous tics itself, and I can’t get it (clk) out of my (clk) head.

Bird presented, “my personal favorite from the new record, called ‘Measuring Cups.’ “ This eloquent classroom scenario in a Beatles-esque minor key, featured potent lyrics, “so you talk about a hand of glory/ a tale that’s rather grim and gory/ is it just another children’s story/that’s been declawed?/when the tales of brothers Grimm and Gorey/ have been outlawed.”

We were presented a new “egg”, as Bird offered, “I wrote a song four or five days ago. I want to share it with you. You’ll be the first! It’s called, “Waves of Dark Matter.” This, yet another clever and pleasurable a song as all the rest was followed by heavy, hard-hitting song, “Monstres” which borrowed a Memphis jug band lyric, “she’s got blood in her eyes for you.”

“Fake Palindromes,” where Bird uses six words that rhyme with “formaldehyde” (“whiskey-plied,” “fratricide,” “died” . . .) was going along nicely and then ended abruptly to a startled giggle, “I just made a funny sound!” I luxuriated in the tragic, tormented beauty of Bird’s phenomenal violin on “Lull” from past recording Weather Systems. Bird says in his bio he’s focusing less on the violin now, “At this point the violin just happens to be the instrument I have on hand to make the sounds that I hear. I like to abuse it and pull as many sounds out of it as I can.”

Whistling blithely in harmony with his glockenspiel on a speculative future of “Tables and Chairs” he sang, “ . . . ‘cause listen after the fall there’ll be no more countries/no currencies at all/we’re gonna live on our wits/throw away survival kits/. . . and that’s not all/Woah!/there will be snacks , there will/there will be snacks!!” another example of his delightfully macabre humor.

There was a massive shout out of requests as the crowd wouldn’t let Bird leave. He played a crowd favorite, “Capital Eye.” to wild whooping and applause, and then an even bigger favorite, “Masterfade” yet another clever play on words, and a song that drew yawps of joy.

Bird ended with an old field holler with Appalachian fiddle, “whoa, don’t worry,” and then told us he hopes that next time he’ll get to play for us in the “Make Out Room” next door. I can’t wait!

The new CD Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs is delightful. I’ve been playing it incessantly, to the point of neglecting my own fiddle! The beautiful accompanying booklet features the darkly whimsical artwork of Chicago’s Jay Ryan. For more info: go to http://www.andrewbird.net I highly recommend the interview which you can access here: http://www.andrewbird.net/eggs.htm

Cyn Collins is at cyn.collins@howwastheshow.com