Sunday, June 6, 2010

Birds and Josh Starmer and Arrows: or, How Andrea and Pete Learned to Stop Worrying and Drink Barleywine

Carolina Brewery - Pittsboro
May 22, 2010

It's been two weeks since this show, but my memory's not completely shot just yet. Give me a few more weeks guzzling peroxide and eating raw catfish and it may be a different story. Out with it...

The rains hadn't been gone long... but long enough. Pete and Andrea brought their friend, cellist-about-town Josh Starmer, to join them at the first of the Brewery's summer music series concerts. In Pittsboro, as in Chapel Hill, when you say "the Brewery," it means a place that brews its own beer and serves unimaginably tasty burgers. Their hot dogs are no joke either. Their homemade potato chips, if you can get them fresh from the frier, are about as close to religion as I care to tread. Don't get me started on what "the Brewery" means in Raleigh. That lousy place has as much to do with craft beer as a... hold it... I can come up with an analogy here... as a day care? Yeah, we'll go with the day care analogy. That one fits Raleigh's Brewery pretty well.

Close to 7:30 on a 7:00 start time, and it looked like the rain would hold back. Biblical torrents had hit Pittsboro, making loose clay of the red soil that is surprisingly good for cultivation, but the sun was now shining through fitful mountains of cloud as they marched frantically with the wind. Andrea, Pete, and Josh had held back, watching the skies for signs of anger, but none came and they got started. I was interested to see how a band I was accustomed to seeing play regular rock shows - 40-45 minute sets, natch - would do with 2 1/2 hours to kill. Quite the challenge, as the Brewery's time slots had more in common with cover band set times than original bands. But they did it, only pausing briefly to cover a Genesis song before rolling back into their own material.

I had no idea how much of their own stuff they had under their belt, but it makes sense that Andrea and Pete would be so prolific. They're married, Chrissakes. They have all kinds of time to make music together. Plus, their other project (Graveyard Fields).

I didn't think to take notes, so I don't know which songs were played in what set, but I do know that they broke out some new jams - and they're in a sweet new direction. The crowd wasn't what I was used to, a lot more people eating supper and treating the music as their background, but they knew how to work with it. And a drunken philosopher, not far from me, was trying to talk people into boycotting BP. The people weren't arguing with him, but he was to that point of idiotic inebriation where he figured everything was cause for argument. "No, maaaan... just do this one ffffthing for me, kay? No, 'm ser-ee-yusss...." and he babbled briefly and distractedly about how the new generation "doesn't know how to make music, maaaaan..." even as one of Chapel Hill's finest pop duos was kicking ass, taking names, and ruling the monkey bars on every playground within a twenty mile radius. But he can be forgiven for his blather, career alcoholics need an ear every now and then.

This was a fantastic show, especially for people with a love for Birds and Arrows (guilty!) as they played most of their record, as well as most of the Woodgrain Heart EP, if not all of it. And this is a band perfectly at home on an outdoor stage. In fact, they may inhabit an outdoor space better than an indoor one - as their music blends so well into the natural world. Much like all human endeavor, what they do must answer to the forces of time and nature - so they write and play accordingly. Because, even as they were finishing, there were warning flashes in the great distance as lightning asserted itself, illuminating the billowing caverns of faraway stormclouds. And though no more storms came that night, the presence of these big, dark clouds on our evening's periphery were almost directly opposite to Birds and Arrows music: which is a small corner of hope and civilization planted in the overgrown weeds of a graveyard. And just because the cops say you can't play there doesn't mean you shouldn't. Seriously. That's what the dead would have wanted, right? For people to come and spend quality time with them without weeping or getting histrionic or reflective (boring! useless!). The spirits of the departed probably want to see people acting like they're having fun, so it makes much more sense to play hide and seek or to make out among the tombstones than to bring some lousy bouquet of flowers and look sad.

So when, on a rare warm day in Winter, Pete and Andrea got kicked out of the Carrboro cemetery for picnicking there, they wrote a song about it. But this wasn't their life inspiring their music - this was their music being their life. And if that's not genuine, I don't know what is. -Wild Bill Heroic


  1. Awww shucks.....you're too kind carrboro ninja!
    Especially the kicking ass and taking names part.