One of the more distinctive chapters in the history of jazz music was the so-called “loft scene” of the ’70s in New York City, wherein avant-garde musicians would gather for concerts in the city’s many loft spaces. Four decades hence, folk musician and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird has come up with his own, downsized version of this: a series of unplugged bluegrass concerts held in his very own living room, a venue he refers to as the Great Room. Of late, Bird has been sharing this intimate, audience-free concerts on his Facebook page. The second installment features the talents of both musical storyteller Tom Brosseau and Dewey Cox himself, John C. Reilly, who brought along a cowboy hat just for the occasion. The half-hour set is an eminently laid-back affair. With no pesky audience members there to bother them, the musicians are free to stop in the middle of a song and start over when they’ve messed up.
Appropriately, the set list is heavy on bluegrass favorites like “Weary Lonesome Blues,” the kind of tune that any self-respecting guitar pickers should have in their back pockets. “No matter how far out as I go with my own writing,” Bird explains, “when I get kind of burned out, I always come back to this music.” For his part, Reilly says that bluegrass music is structurally similar to the Chicago blues he grew up with, but it has an optimism that’s more suited to his personality. He wasn’t depressed enough to play the blues, but bluegrass suits him just fine.
In addition to these off-the-books living room shows, Bird is playing some larger venues this summer and fall in support of latest album, Are You Serious. As the Great Room series suggests, Bird is serious about his music but not overly so about himself.