The Center for the Arts presents Sunday, March 5, 7:30PM
with Matt the Electrician opening
$20 member, $24 non-member
(Ticket price includes $2 facility fee. Does not include applicable fee for online purchases.)
“…the year’s biggest local roots surprise comes courtesy of JT Nero (nee Jeremy Lindsay) and Allison Russell. Teaming as Birds of Chicago, they project organic gospel, hillbilly, folk and soul elements that bridge traditional and modern approaches.” – The Chicago Tribune
“A Seamless fusion of soul, country and doo-wop.” –KUTX Studio 1A Sessions
“Fine examples of song writing and singing. A broad palette with some forays into Louisiana and a more rustic feel to some of the songs at times recalling the late Ronnie Lane’s freewheeling celebration of traveling folk.” – Blabber ’n’ Smoke
Birds of Chicago is a collective based around JT Nero and Allison Russell. Whether touring as a duo or with the full family band, Nero and Russell have emerged as two of the most compelling new voices in North American Roots music.
2012’s release BIRDS of CHICAGO has been called “As refreshing and rewarding as morning in the reeds with the Audubon Society” by Thomas Connor of the Chicago Sun Times. This debut offering by Birds of Chicago has garnered Rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. The album is as beautifully written as it is sung and has been Championed by No Depression, Jambase, Daytrotter, Audio Tree, Americana UK as well as receiving extensive US college radio play. A bit of History on Birds of Chicago: For several years Russell and Nero’s respective bands, Po’ Girl (Vancouver, BC) and JT and the Clouds (Chicago, IL), have collaborated extensively, but on 2011’s Mountains/Forests, released under the JT Nero banner, they tapped into the true, bewitching power of their voices together on an entire record. It also featured the full cast of characters that would round out the Birds of Chicago ensemble — the Clouds and Michelle McGrath, the luminous singer and picker from the hidden hills of Southeast Ohio. The record “Mountains/Forests” received critical raves and won them new fans on both side of the Atlantic, and created a great deal of excitement for the self titled debut which was release in October of 2012 and celebrated with a 4 month Co album release tour w/ Bay Area artist Sean Hayes. Nero’s fractured country-soul voice wrapped in Russell’s silver and gold tones, is a fine thing. Not too perfect, not at all saccharine, you’ll hear echoes of mountain gospel, street corner doo-wop, and classic soul. Accompanied by just a banjo and a guitar, it’s haunting. Fired by the band, it’s a full tilt revival. Nero and Russell are most at home on the road – pick almost any night in the next two years and you can bet they will be in some festival, theater, pub, VFW hall, roller rink (they wish) or living room, dovetailing their voices, singing their songs of hope, despair, love…. and electric seahorses. And honey bee apocalypses. And ice cream. It’s familiar and strange stuff – the everyday and the magical. Come see ‘em, they won’t be hard to find. www.birdsofchicago.com
Despite the name, Matt the Electrician is no longer an electrician, focusing instead on a music career that has spanned the course of two decades, a dozen records, and literally thousands of shows. It’s folk music for a modern age, rooted in lyrics that focus on the realities and challenges of the 21st century as opposed to, say, the old-school thrill of hopping trains.
“I don’t generally write mining disaster songs,”he explains. “I tend to write about things that have happened to me and my family. Songs about the small things in life, which, to me, are really the big things.”
With his newest project, Matt gets by with a little help from his friends. Throughout 2015 and 2016, he’s focusing on a string of 7-inch vinyl singles. Every new release will focus on collaborations with different artists who’ve crossed Matt’s path over the years, including the bluegrass band Wood & Wire (who appear on the very first installment of the vinyl series), experimental solo musician Little Brave, and others. Rather than record an entire album’s worth of material, then carefully plot the album’s release for months, Matt the Electrician will release the 7-inch records as they’re finished, with each new release following its predecessor by three or four months. The goal? To get new music to his fans as quickly and creatively as possible. The icing on the cake? Matt gets to extend the collaborative spirit that’s been present in his music ever since his very first gig in Pacific Grove, CA, when he invited his high school classmates to join him onstage.
“The coffee shop paid me in tips, free coffee and a sandwich,” he remembers of that teenaged gig. “I had to fill three hours, and I only had two songs, so I invited all the friends I knew kids from the school orchestra, friends, other kids who had started writing songs and the show wound up being ‘Matt and Friends.’ That was 25 years ago and that’s what I’m still doing.”
Years before moving to Texas and launching his career as a boundary-breaking, working-class folk musician, Matt Sever grew up on the West Coast. His parents, a union carpenter and a seamstress, played John Denver and Pete Seeger songs on the family record player, and Matt spent his earliest years surrounded by the things that would later fill his own music: acoustic guitars, timeless melodies, lyrics that celebrated the joys and heartaches of everyday life, and above all else a strong work ethic.
That work ethic served him well in the mid-1990s, when he moved to Austin in search of new horizons and better opportunities. Matt was already playing music by then, and in need of a steady day job to help pay the bills, he began working as an electrician, spending his days wiring houses in the sweltering Texas heat. Once quitting time came, he’d grab his guitar and drive himself to an evening show, usually taking the stage in his work boots and sweaty clothes. “Hi; I’m Matt the Electrician,” he’d tell the crowd, hoping his occupation would help explain his appearance. The name stuck, even after his growing fanbase at home as well as abroad, where he’s since become a frequently-booked musician throughout Japan and Europe allowed him to hang up his pliers for good.