We're obsessed with talking about it. We claim it enhances every mundane aspect of day-to-day life. We got really into it in college‚ and as a result‚ we have too many Pink Floyd posters. It's the reason we're always poor‚ and the reason our ex-girlfriends never took us seriously‚ but we keep doing it anyway. We do it all the time. And on April 20th‚ we got our own holiday where we could openly celebrate our all consuming vice: buying records.
The wealth of in-store performances and rare vinyl available on Record Store Day is an annual gift for music fans‚ and this year in Portland‚ Brown Bird kept the giving going late into the night with a generous pair of live shows at One Longfellow Square. In the spirit of the day‚ David Lamb and MorganEve Swain brought freshly pressed red vinyl copies of their latest effort Fits of Reason to sell in the lobby‚ along with the slew of instruments required to bring the album to life on stage. Before the duo's first set started‚ the stage already had a cozy‚ lived-in feel; Fits of Reason's iconic cover art graced the stage's curtained backdrop‚ and instruments classical and electric alike were strewn about a tapestry rug alongside his and hers foldout chairs adorned with the words "Brown" and "Bird" respectively.
With the stage set‚ the capacity crowd listened with rapt attention from the first word of opener "Ebb & Flow‚" a nearly a cappella performance from 2011's Salt for Salt that showcased Lamb and Swain's captivating complimentary vocals. "Ebb & Flow" led into "Nine Eyes‚" a full-fledged immersion into the Middle Eastern flavorings that have become an increasingly integral part of Brown Bird's sound in recent years. The group then briefly revisited Salt for a fevered rendition of "Fingers to the Bone‚" a workingman's anthem that has taken on new meaning ever since Lamb and Swain left stable day jobs and committed to full time gigs in music's perilously unstable middle class.
As the evening unfolded‚ Brown Bird's performance served as the perfect finish to a day celebrating the antiquated hobby of record collecting. Our Twitter addled culture makes it rare for artists to stick to a theme for a whole song‚ let alone an entire album. But when Lamb launched into a trio of spiritually curious songs ("Seven Hells‚" "Danger and Dread‚" "Hitchens")‚ he evinced the restless soul searching that unifies the band's entire catalogue. Throughout the holy trinity‚ Lamb's lyrics offered the perspective of a preacher's son well-versed in Atheist literature‚ and were punctuated by a whistling solo in "Danger and Dread" that never fails to give me chills.
The duo remained in lockstep throughout the night‚ with Lamb simultaneously plucking an electric guitar and keeping rhythm with a kick drum while Swain highlighted her mastery of all things strings by deftly switching from upright bass‚ to cello‚ to violin‚ to electric bass over the course of the night. Their knack for seamless transitions was best encapsulated during "By the Reins‚" a pace changing‚ vertigo inducing standout from 2009's The Devil Dancing.
In the past‚ Brown Bird has created great music as a solo project and quintet‚ but the chemistry between Lamb and Swain has become an essential element of the band's sound as of late. In between songs‚ the two made eyes at each other‚ and at one point Lamb grinned at the audience and said "she thinks I'm beautiful." "It's the sweaty beard‚" Swain quipped. At about 9:30‚ the band left the stage with a solid 30 minutes to rest before the official start time of their late show‚ but a rowdy audience encouraged them to return for an encore. Constantly on the road‚ Lamb and Swain have become accustomed to working their fingers to the bone‚ but anyone who has seen them at work knows it's a labor of love.