Thursday, November 26, 2009

Blind Pilot and Laura Veirs like Thanksgiving

It felt a lot like northwest America in Chicago this Thanksgiving Eve. Three Portland acts made a stop at the Windy City’s newest venue, Lincoln Hall, for a relaxing evening of dim lighted indie folk. Blind Pilot, Laura Viers and Mimicking Birds played quietly, encouraging the crowd to keep their conversations to a whisper on the biggest drinking night of the year.

Mimicking Birds opened to a venue not even a quarter full, but those that came early were treated to one of the few bands Isaac Brock has deemed good enough to reside on his Glacial Pace label. Their low-key indie quirk even hinted at pre-Moon and Antarctica Modest Mouse. It wasn’t poppy, it didn’t demand your attention, but it was a welcoming intro for a night of Portland pleasantry.

Laura Veirs kicked the energy and the smiles up a few notches with her backup band, the Hall of Flames. Her set consisted mostly of songs from her upcoming album, July Flame. As she joyfully rocked out, I couldn’t help but wonder why she’s still relatively under the radar. Her wealth of songwriting talent is spectacular. Each new album proves that she has endless reserves of the catchy melodies and pop gems.

She was beautifully pregnant too. And there aren’t many things in this world more wonderful than a pregnant woman rocking an electric guitar. That kid is going to be so cool.

Chicago show-goers can be pretty polite at most indie shows. It’s a music town to the core, where most people are more interested in actually hearing the band than just having some background music to get trashed to. But if anything, we were too polite tonight. You could hear a pin drop in Lincoln Hall between songs. Until Laura Veirs loosened us up with a little country hoedown. Acoustic guitar and fiddle got the hands clapping and Laura’s boots stomping. By the time she was finished, the crowd was more than warmed up for Blind Pilot.

And this is when you hear the value of touring with the Decemberists. When Blind Pilot hit the road with them half a year ago, not many people had any idea who the band was. But tonight, a packed house was loudly singing along with all of their sad indie folk.

The six-person band looked downright literary. Upright bass, squeeze box, dulcimer and xylophone crowded every inch of the stage. And their mix was just as crisp at Lincoln Hall as it is on 3 Rounds and a Sound. People slow danced together, girls leaned their heads on the shoulders of their men; it was actually a pretty romantic show. And though the crowd’s quiet politeness persisted (people were even shh-ing each other), they got loud enough to bring the band back for an encore.

While a cold mist fell outside, Blind Pilot warmed hearts and got Chicagoans ready to feel very thankful on this particular Thanksgiving. It was one of those shows that in spite of its soft and somber tone brought a sense of gratefulness to the audience. While enjoying stuffing and mashed potatoes the next day, there will definitely be hums of “The Story I Heard” at dinner tables in Chicagoland.

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