10/15 - After the lengthy screening of The Turin Horse it felt right to transition to the new documentary about Chicago musician Andrew Bird, perhaps the perfect foil to the gradual fizzle of what is, supposedly, Tarr's final film. Having visited the end of the world twice in this festival (oops! spoiler!), a rockin' concert film was a welcome change. And, although I'm not sure what kind of screenings Xan Aranda's Andrew Bird: Fever Year will receive in the future, I do recommend checking it out in a theater where you can get the full concert sound affect. For my partner Jen and I this screening was a particularly special treat since we have seen Bird live before, but from the back of a rather sedate concert hall at a rather sedate Wisconsin University. One of the great achievements of Fever Year as a documentary is that it feels necessary, as Bird's careful and improvisational use of looping mechanisms and his interplay with an extraordinary cast of musicians is something every music fan should get the chance to examine. Aranda not only captures the concert footage in a way that gets you close to the action, but also lovingly intertwines a narrative of Bird as a relentless touring musician. The "fever" of the title is literal: Bird, although not in any serious ill health now, toured fitfully and feverishly nonstop for a year, which Aranda documents with tremendous care and fidelity.
Fever Year is one of those music documentaries that will deepen the appreciation of Bird for those who are already fans, and most likely get newcomers hooked. Although the film is more concert film than narrative documentary (the music is the meat, and the narrative is the bones, as Aranda put it at a post-screening Q&A), it lays out Bird's process and his strengths as a musician and lyricist in such a way that it gets you anxious to listen more closely. And the film, put simply, rocks. Aranda covers a number of the full band numbers with Woodstock-inspired split-screen that made me wonder why more rock docs don't use that technique. The presentation and performance of one of the early numbers in the film, "Opposite Day," is worth the price of admission alone (here is a live version--not from the film, but still very good).
Bird may not be the most immediately accessible musician and lyricist, and his career has gone through gradually changing styles and improvisations, but for those looking for a gateway to his music I suggest his incredible 2005 album "The Mysterious Production of Eggs." Aside from that, keep an eye out for screenings of Andrew Bird: Fever Year.
|Andrew Bird's and his custom-made touring amplifiers|
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