Andrew Bird whistles goodbye to NewWestFest

Lauryn Bolz

Andrew Bird closed out Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest on a high note at his show Aug. 11. 

Bird, an Americana-indie artist, performed as part of his promotional tour for his new album, “My Finest Work Yet.” Eerily philosophical, yet with an understated humor, Bird drew crowds as large and diverse as his body of work with his new release as well as his long-established reputation for his whimsical whistling.

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Andrew Bird and his bass player sing at Bohemian Nights
Andrew Bird and his bass player sing as they perform on the main stage of NewWestFest on the final night. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

“We’re from Boulder and didn’t even know this was going on today,” said Emily Quebedeaux, who attended the outdoor concert. “We just showed up, saw Andrew Bird was playing and decided to stay.”

Bird’s set opened as the hot Colorado sun was still high in the sky, casting a warm glow onto the stage and reflecting off of his signature oversized gramophone. The double-sided, phonograph-like speaker began to spin, adding a whirring vibrato to his opening track, “Sisyphus.” Bird’s voice was just as clear as his recordings, his trademark whistling even more impressive than it appears over a speaker. His setlist combined songs from his new release, as well as classics from his previous discography, which spans approximately 15 years.

“I had not (heard of Bird), but I loved him,” said Fort Collins native Phoebe Ryan, who was enjoying the open-air festival with her 3-year-old son. “I saw that this was Americana, and I love that or bluegrass. The fiddles and banjos and all that fun stuff are my favorite.”

The set reflected Bird’s persisting need for innovation. Classic songs like “Why” and “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” were injected with improvised violin and whistling riffs, creating a unique experience for concert-goers that cannot be repeated by simply listening to Bird’s recorded albums. With his laid-back Americana style, Bird provided a feel-good addition to the Bohemian Nights lineup.

(Bohemian Nights) really brings the community together. It’s pretty awesome that it’s free, and it makes everyone feel like they are included.” Emily Quebedeaux

Of course, with NewWestFest comes the trials of every free festival: intoxicated middle-age men who truly believe that their dance moves are killer, sunburns due to inadequate awnings and the unpleasant after-effects of fair food. But despite these tribulations, Bird’s set exemplified why 105,000 people flocked to the festival this year.

“It really brings the community together,” said Quebedeaux. “It’s pretty awesome that it’s free, and it makes everyone feel like they are included.”

Perhaps Bird himself put it best. 

“Fort Collins, well done,” he said from the Mountain Avenue stage. “This is people getting together.”

The sun had just begun to set when Bird closed out Bohemian Nights and NewWestFest with his popular track, “Pulaski at Night,” with the live addition of the spinning gramophone giving the classic song a unique tremolo effect. 

“(Bohemian Nights) is exposure to music,” Ryan said. “It’s free, it’s awesome and it’s fun. It’s great that we can see all of these bands and not have to pay a million dollars.”

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Lauryn Bolz can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @BolzLauryn.