Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 13th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Bird Calls

music_AndrewBirdMulti-instrumentalist Andrew Bird goes loopy in church
It’s kind of appropriate that Andrew Bird hails from the Windy City. If you’ve never heard the anointed expert whistler pucker his lips, it sounds like an eerie breeze through the trees, maybe more akin to extraterrestrial avifauna or solar wind than anything earthbound. One might call them Bird calls.

Forming his mouth more like an instrument than an organ, it’s no surprise that the multi-talented indie darling Mr. Bird is slated for two nights at the Rio Theatre, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28 and 29.

“The whistling came out of playing the violin,” explained the multi-instrumentalist to online publication IndieLondon in 2009. “The violin is an extremely painful instrument to learn to play and the whistling was so casual. There’s a certain geometry and fluidity to it.”


Bird’s background is in classical music, graduating from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in violin performance, so it’s no surprise that his other instrumental forays derive from that. The 37-year-old began his career among the ’90s swing revival as a member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers before moving on to a solo career initially tagged as Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire. Since branching out, Bird has become a veritable artisan to the NPR crowd, and has cemented himself as one of Coachella Music Festival’s stalwarts—again landing himself a spot on 2011’s bill.

It’s been two years since Bird has released an album of original material—Noble Beast and the accompanying Useless Creatures—but just last month the violin, guitar, mandolin and glockenspiel-proficient Bird released the fourth installment of his live Fingerlings series. Recorded at a Chicago Presbyterian church, the album may well offer some insight into what fans can expect this weekend at the Rio.

Although Bird recorded his last two studio albums with the same drummer and bassist backing him, and had subsequently moved his live shows more toward a band dynamic, last winter’s church mini-tour saw Bird playing completely solo. Although the latest Fingerlings album is very much reflective of its organic, creaky church setting, it’s also perhaps Bird’s finest work with a loop pedal, enlarging his sound to fit the cavernous hall.

“It is a bit disorienting at first as to where the sound is coming from, and is what you're hearing at the moment really what I'm playing now or what I played 12 seconds ago ...?” Bird confessed to in 2009. “I get confused, sure, but I can visualize the loop and its shape. It’s like a cloud that hangs between me and the audience and I can crawl between the notes and carve away a little E from the top while I add more G at the bottom.”

The result on Fingerlings 4 is fairly stunning; an orchestral sound emanating from one man, backed by the kind of terse string plucking that’s become characteristic of Bird’s catalogue. Ironically, though the loop pedal may be a modern invention of technology, Bird learned to efficiently use the medium in the most rustic of settings.

“I was living full-time at my barn in rural Illinois and messing around with this looping pedal,” Bird continued. “Having a lot of time on your hands is pretty key to mastering live looping, where the timing has to be precise. The looping forces limitations on your songwriting in a good way, I think. You have to boil the song down to its basic elements for it to work.”

Indeed, it may be an oxymoron to describe a sound as orchestral and minimal simultaneously, but this is the backwoods feeling created by Bird’s latest live album. Though one man creates a certain homogeny of sound, use of the loop pedal creates the audio equivalent to bouncing a laser off a mirror—going every which way in a perfectly straight line.


Andrew Bird performs at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28 and 29, at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are sold out. For more information call 423-8209.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Hot in Here

This ain’t no Burning Man—the MAH’s GLOW festival flames on


Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of October 9

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Seoul Food

Santa Cruz’s new Sesame Korean is a great introduction to an ancient culinary tradition


Is there evil in the world?

Yes, some people don’t think right because they have been treated badly. Milo Robbins, Scotts Valley, Second Grade


Dos Aguilas Olive Oil

Aptos company is letting locals pick their own olives in October


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist