Strumming Along With Musician Andrew Bird
Once upon a time (the mid 90s) in a gloriously music-laden land (Chicago), a lanky, sharp-witted, sharp-featured tenderfoot (Andrew Bird) graduated from Northwestern’s acclaimed music conservatory and dove into the sea of indie rock. Inhabited by hard-edged musicians who took pride in their lack of skill and almost-affected amateurishness, it was about passion — forget technique. Live shows were supposed to be truly live, and in-concert mistakes were nothing less than standard. “Experience the sound in its raw, unadulterated form,” they’d say. And Bird — despite his “super-trained” background — fit right in, rolling with the sonic tides to the eventual mid-ocean calm of celebrated musician status.
Almost two decades, ten albums, and one metamorphosed genre later, Bird’s mélange of instruments — his tailor-made violin almost always playing musical protagonist — and unfussy, unpolished ways have continued to dilate the canyon-sized rift between his contemporaries and himself. “There’s this professionalism in the scene that’s emerged, and I think it really isn’t a good thing,” Bird reflects. These days, acts no doubt rehearse before taking the stage — but so much that even at concerts involving mudslides and hallucinogens and tents, the magic’s been extracted.
Bird chuckles. “I feel like I’m preserving some sense — some spirit — of amateurishness, which is so hilarious because I went to conservatory and everything,” he says. “Our stuff, especially at big festivals, is full of mistakes … we fail all the time.” What’s succeeding, then? He pauses, furrowing his already creased brow into deeper thought. It’s when — post-mistake — they’ve not only corrected it, but used the mishap as fuel to bring the whole performance to even greater heights.
— Sky Dylan-Robbins
HEY! we know that guy.