A whimsical overload with Andrew Bird @ Stubb’s, 3/19

21 03 2009

Is it just me, or was the Wednesday line-up at Stubb’s a brow-furrowing mish-mash of well-known acts within slightly unrelated genres (uh, Meat Puppets and Andrew Bird on the same bill)? Although the show had the potential to polarize show-goers for its lack of cohesion, Stubb’s was packed regardless. My M.O. for the night was to experience Andrew Bird in all his splendor, and I ended up catching English indie rockers Gomez, who played in the 10 p.m. slot before Bird, in the process.

photo by Jillian Mapes

I had only heard of Gomez in peripheral contexts  before coming to SXSW, and suddenly the buzz of parties and fliers pushed the band into my line of vision. At first I was not exactly sure of how to capture the band’s rock sound because Gomez seemed to mix many genres (electronic elements, blues, even alt-country and slightly jam-y), and fans seemed to enjoy their song-to-song variation and positive energy at Wednesday’s show.

photo Jillian Mapes

Next up was Bird himself, for which I pushed my way through the photo pit to get a few decent shots. Bird and his full band (yes, you heard me) appeared clearly flustered by technical difficulties as they began the set. Fans’ fears of a problematic set melted away after he eased his way into the first several songs until the track “Skin Is,” when technical complications arose yet again. But Bird chugged onward, eventually conducting an audience singalong with drum mallet in hand (please note: Andrew Bird does not play drums).

Jillian Mapes

As a barefoot Bird delved into old favorites, such as “Imitosis” and “Tables and Chairs,” he seemed less careful and perfectly plucky. Bird took his damn sweet time making his way around these tracks, equipped with hints of fuzzy feedback and slower tempos as his tools. These changes allowed Bird’s well-known tunes to take on a refreshed demeanor (much like myself, after I sleep more than five hours a night post-SXSW). Overall, the performance moved beyond “intimate,” a word many use to describe Andrew Bird gigs. I’d say this one was a bit fired up as well. — Jillian Mapes



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