Andrew Bird, Blind Pilot, Ryley Walker  and More on Mountain Stage

Mountain Stage with Larry Groce

Andrew Bird, Blind Pilot, Ryley Walker and More on Mountain Stage

Sun · January 29, 2017

Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:00 pm (event ends at 10:00 pm)

$30.00 - $35.00

Sold Out

Limited $35 tickets may become available at 5pm on January 29th in the Great Hall of the Culture Center. 

Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird
With his new album, Are You Serious, Andrew Bird has widened the breadth of his art by directly rejecting his own human experience. With key contributions from Fiona Apple and Blake Mills, Are You Serious attains a level of expression that's a personal, evolutionary leap. "Here I am with my most unguarded, direct, relatable album to date," Bird says, "Go easy on me."

"I set out to make a record that's diferent than any I've made before," he explains. "I wanted to make an album musically crafed like a Wrecking Crew session, where you have to be good. There's less wordplay and more intention to process some brutal times that I went through. What happens when real ordeals befall someone who has always been happy writing from their imagination and the distance of the third person? Who has time for poetics while grappling with birth and death? What's the role of sincerity for a songwriter who doesn't really go in for the confessional thing? This is what I struggled with for this record. I suppose the title could be poking fun at my own foray into the confessional realm."

Are You Serious is the second record Bird has made with producer Tony Berg, following 2005's breakthroughThe Mysterious Production of Eggs. "Tony and I spent months preparing for Sound City," says Bird, referring to the legendary Los Angeles studio where Nirvana recorded Nevermind and Neil Young made After The Gold Rush. "We went through every part of every song, every note, scrutinizing the voicing of the chords, fnding melodically interesting ways to move from one chord to the next. I decided to work with a producer because I wanted the recording process to be more rigorous. Novelists have editors and playwrights workshop their drama. Tony really played that role for me on this album."

An up-tempo blitz addressing personal chemistry as a rearrangement of molecules, "Roma Fade" may be the album's centerpiece. Its sense of longing – "from the tips of your fngers, every strand of hair …you may not know me but you feel my stare" – is based in part on how Bird met his wife, or rather, the times he saw her before they met. "It always seemed to be at a party, from ffeen or twenty feet away," he explains. "'Roma Fade' and 'Truth Lies Low' present both sides of the phenomenon of observing and being observed. Desire draws a fne line between what's romantic and what's creepy."

The album's surprise revelation is "Lef Handed Kisses," a duet with the singular Fiona Apple. With Bird playing the skeptic and Apple the romantic, the stop-start ballad portrays two lovers who are philosophically opposed but inevitably drawn together. It feels like it could be a lost Johnny Cash/June Carter classic.

"The song began as an internal dialogue," Bird says. "At frst it was just my voice. Then this other voice came creeping in and I thought 'this should be a duet if I can fnd the right person.' I needed to find someone really indicting. And Fiona does the pissed of thing really well! She was totally committed. The session was a long whiskey-fueled night. We were unhinged, for sure. All worth it, of course… I can't write simple love songs. People are complex. My inclination was to write a song about why I can't write a simple love song."

"My favorite songs I write are the ones that change and adapt according to my mood," says Bird. Album opener "Capsized" is a prime example, having been in his live repertoire for close to a decade under various titles and guises. In the album's recorded incarnation, "Capsized" is a propulsive gem evoking both the chamber-soul of Bill Withers and the backbeat of The Meters. Bird's vocals are driven onward by drummer Ted Poor and bassist Alan Hampton. The musically expansive nature of Are You Serious is due in part to ace ensemble players like Poor and Hampton, and the guitar playing of Blake Mills. "Blake raises the bar and gets where I'm coming from like few musicians I've met. He's as restless as I am and gets the odd accents and microtonal stuf that's outside western music."

The album closer "Valleys of the Young" encapsulates the album's themes. This is what Andrew means of when he uses the word "brutal." "For years now, the code I've been trying to crack is how to translate plainspoken real life into song and have it meet my melodic, syntactic standards. There are no riddles here. No encryption. I've lef the valley of the young, the small-seeming dramas, the brunch and misery, for a far more perilous place where your heart breaks from cradle to grave. The musical setting for this had to ensure that both young and old listeners can relate. Tony kept making us look at photos of the dust bowl storms raging across the prairie, the ones that made Woody Guthrie sing 'So long it's been good to know ya.'"

Jettisoning established methods begets reinvention. This is part of the great success of Are You Serious. See how it plays out in person on Bird's 17-date Spring 2016 tour, kicking of March 30 at The Ryman in Nashville. "I never walk onstage knowing what I'm doing," says the artist. "It's a shrug-of-the-shoulders approach and people like it, it seems human to them. I began playing with the idea of reinvention, so that onstage a wild untamed thing can happen. I wanted to make a record that lets me subvert or expand my onstage personality."A personality now ready to answer the question, Are You Serious.
Blind Pilot
Blind Pilot
"The past isn't finished with us yet. Love can be like that, too. A couple of years ago I found love in different forms leaving my life at once. In a single month I lost my closest group of friends, my 13-year relationship ended, and my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I had just stopped touring to write the next Blind Pilot album, but instead I was watching each of my plans unthread as a new season pulled forward relentlessly.

"Avoiding suffering, is avoiding real happiness too. My reason to tell this story isn't because it broke me and pinned me breathless. There was suffering, but those two years, as I moved to my hometown to help my parents through my dad's sickness and eventually his death, also brought me true closeness, a deeper will to care and hope, and many moments of beauty I can barely describe.

"This album came from love for my family, my town, my friends, my community. We don't have to be so afraid of loss. We can speak and share its name, knowing we are together in it. If these songs are invitations to talk about loss and death, the invitation is to talk closely of the courage we find when we face loss honestly, cracked open and unsure of what we will become."

- Blind Pilot's Israel Nebeker

Blind Pilot's 'And Then Like Lions' on ATO Records is the third LP from the Portland, Oregon-based sextet consisting of frontman Israel Nebeker, fellow founding member Ryan Dobrowski, Luke Ydstie, Kati Claborn, Ian Krist and Dave Jorgensen. The album was produced by Israel Nebeker and Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Neko Case, My Morning Jacket), and was written and composed by Nebeker. It comes five years after the band's well-received 'We Are the Tide' and three years after Nebeker thought he'd be starting the songs that would become the band's third album.

'And Then Like Lions' opens with "Umpqua Rushing," the first single from the album and the track that most directly deals with the end of his relationship. It's inspired by memories of visiting the Umpqua River with his then girlfriend. The song connects images of a forest fire to the destruction and new beginning found in love's wake.

"Umpqua Rushing" has a strong, mid-tempo flow built on major chords and rich instrumentation that matches the river the song's named for. Nebeker's voice soars on strings to an uplifting ending, and it's as vulnerable and open as he's ever been.

Packed Powder is an upbeat, solidly-driven song filled with elevated textures of guitar hooks and trumpets. It comes from an idea Nebeker had as a teenager, when he and his friends found they could repack fireworks to different outcomes: "We're all made of the same stuff, but who knows how we're packed and what we'll show as we burn across the black sky of our own time?" The song speaks lightheartedly of ironic outcomes when trying to better a life through different career paths, and then sings a chorus that surrenders and desires life to reveal what we are made of.

'And Then Like Lions' ends triumphantly on "Like Lions," a song inspired by various stories of courage Nebeker has whitenessed in his recent years, including watching his father fight for life and, before the end, find strength enough to give himself and be at peace with his own mortality.

Blind Pilot has performed on Ellen and The Late Show with David Letterman, at the Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. The group has shared stages with The Shins, Local Natives, Andrew Bird, and more. The project began in 2007 when Israel and co-founding member Ryan Dobrowski went on a West Coast tour via bicycle. Blind Pilot's six members recorded for this new album and will tour through 2016.
Ryley Walker
"With the charming swagger of jazz-folk troubadour Tim Buckley and the resonant, full picking style of Bert Jansch, "The West Wind" comes from Walker's first widely available release, a three-song 12". With acoustic guitar in hand and a voice like browned butter, Walker swings and sways in a lush string-and-piano arrangement right out of Buckley'sStarsailor; it slowly picks up to a swirling gallop without bucking the rhythm." – NPR Music

Ryley is a 24 year-old singer/songwriter and guitarist from Chicago. Having kicked around Chicago's experimental free/noise music scene for several years, Ryley recently turned to a folk-rock sound inspired by some of his heroes, among them Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, and Bert Jansch. The result is a poised and accomplished debut album, recorded in Chicago by Cooper Crain (guitarist/keyboardist in Cave). The album will be released by Tompkins Square in April 2014.

A 3 song 12" EP featuring "The West Wind" and two non-LP B sides (including one instrumental duet with Daniel Bachman) was released in November on Tompkins Square. Sleeve design by Plastic Crimewave.
The Flat Five
The Flat Five
The Flat Five is a Chicago-based pop vocal super-group — Kelly Hogan, Nora O'Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, Alex Hall — five in-demand musicians who individually spend much of their time touring and recording with bands like Neko Case, NRBQ, The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, Mavis Staples, Iron and Wine, Jakob Dylan, Robbie Fulks, Alejandro Escovedo, The New Pornographers, and many other heavy hitters. These five folks stay very, very busy. Yet for the past ten years, these shameless harmony junkies would come together, like a moth to a porchlight, to make music as The Flat Five. Purely for the love of singing together. For the mother-effing fun of it.

At first The Flat Five existed only as a once-a-year sold out holiday show in Chicago. Then came quarterly SRO gigs, and then month-long jam-packed residencies, and then…slowly…the idea for a record grew out of the band's shared love of the repertoire of genius oddball songwriter and performer (and big brother to band member Scott Ligon) Chris Ligon. The Flat Five were already performing many of Chris's songs in their set, and thought that making an entire record of his compositions would be a good way to shoot up a flare and give more folks a chance to hear his amazing and unique music.

Ligon hears something almost spiritual about the group's vocal interaction.
"We have lost the importance of what singing harmony with other human beings means," he says. "It's something that is really important in society, a good example of people working together to create something beautiful. Now that I have this with these friends of mine, I can't live without it."

From the laid-back simple to the oddly romantic to the slightly subversive, there is a heart of wide-eyed sweetness coloring Chris Ligon's songs. The smooth southern soul of "Bottom Buck" will have you kicking off your fringed leather boots by the river to lay back and watch the dragonflies flit past. Beneath the gentle, Donovan psychedelia of "I Could Fall In Love With You" is a love song built on prom-night innocence that's both goofball and beguiling. "It's Been A Delight's" suave Cole Porter-era charms will unbutton the tux and pop the champagne. And if you can keep a straight face and resist the urge to shimmy during the Mills Brothers-styled aphrodisiac romp "Bug Light" well, friend — it might be time to visit the doc.

The charms of the album are manifest. With in-the-pocket and over-the-moon harmonies, the genre-hopping It's a World of Love and Hope is loveably diverse and hits every stripe on the ROYGBIV spectrum. The many touchstones (a gamut stretching from The Beach Boys and The Boswell Sisters, to Trip Shakespeare and Dr. Dog) were gathered on the shores of late night AM radio and get tossed at the listener with a giddiness that jumps outta the grooves. This is a band that's made more than a few laps around the roller rink on Saturday night.
Esme Patterson
Esme Patterson
Venue Information:
Culture Center Theater
West Virginia State Capitol Grounds
Charleston, WV, 25305
http://www.wvculture.org/agency/cultcenter.html