The crowd was on its feet for headliners Andrew Bird & the Hands of Glory as they wrapped up the first day of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Friday.
The set included songs from throughout Bird’s repertoire and his latest record, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…, an album of Handsome Family cover songs.
One of the highlights of the show came when the band members brought their stand-up bass, guitars and violin to the front of the stage and stood in a cluster around one mic.
The musician has been incorporating the old-time mic method into shows for the last couple of years, as a way of providing what he describes as “a nice sonic break in the middle of the set”.
“It makes you play better,” he told the Straight in an interview after his performance.
“If ever you’re starting to get disconnected by having monitors and being plugged into amps and whatnot, that helps you reconnect to your voice and your instrument and to the audience, and it creates a dynamic in the show that’s nice.
“When I was younger I might have done it out of nostalgia for that’s the way they used to do it—now I could care less,” he added. “I just like the way it sounds.”
The tracks from Bird’s latest record seemed an ideal fit for the outdoor setting at Jericho Beach Park. The songs that form the album are written by old friends of his, and some of his favourite artists, he noted.
"I learned maybe 15 of their songs over the years...it’s comforting," he said. "It reminds me what to try for in my own songs.
"I think we share a similar appreciation for intense yet ambiguous lyrical density, and I think they do it so well."
Friday's Vancouver performance was the first of three Western Canadian folk festival appearances the artist and his new band the Hands of Glory are scheduled to play.
Bird said it's “unexpected” how much it feels like the band is supporting his singing on the current tour. While he still incorporates his trademark looping into his live shows, he added it’s “just good to mix it up”.
“It’s really nice to just, like, lay into the vocals, and know that everybody’s got my back, and we’re just playing the bones of the song, and there’s not a great desire to reinvent the wheel, it’s just good songs,” he said.
Andrew Bird & the Hands of Glory will perform again as part of a workshop on Saturday morning at 11:20 with Noura Mint Seymali and Brasstronaut.