This past Saturday, Andrew Bird gave Nashville a taste of Dutch culture by performing a concert at the Downtown Presbyterian Church in the spirit of gezelligheid. For those who have studied abroad in Copenhagen, you are probably familiar with the Danish sentiment of “hygge.” While the term has no truly accurate English translation, it is defined by feelings of warmth and coziness. Hygge is different for everyone, but it can be experienced through appreciating life’s simple pleasures, joining in community, and finding contentment. The Dutch term “gezelligheid” is similar and can be used to describe a bright, cozy atmosphere or more specific experiences such as spending time with loved ones (you can read more here). Even during the frigid dark months of winter, the Danish and Dutch continue to meet with friends and find well-being in the name of hygge and gezelligheid respectively.
For the past few years, Bird has performed annually during this time of year in Chicago at a church of his choosing in the spirit of gezelligheid. The concept began when Andrew heard the term used by a Dutch woman at a bar in Amsterdam on a winter night. The purpose of the series is to bring light and community, warmth and happiness to audience goers. Each year he expands outside Chicago and this year he decided to share gezelligheid with Nashville.
The venue was highly unique, a church off 5th Street that had almost a Egyptian theme with vibrant stained glass windows. Right at 8:00, the opener, Joan Shelley from Louisville, Kentucky, performed a simple yet beautiful set of acoustic, self-written songs. She was accompanied by only two other singers whose voices blended and lifted with her own seamlessly. Despite being a smaller artist, she has been featured on NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert and has even received complimentary reviews from Pitchfork.
Shortly after Joan’s performance, Andrew Bird was out, beginning the show with an instrumental piece featuring just him, a violin, and his loop pedal. The piece began simply and quickly crescendoed into what sounded like a full orchestra. The stage set up included functional horn sculptures designed by Ian Schneller that spun around to magnify and expand the sound throughout the space. During the show, Bird performed pieces from his entire career such as songs from his recent solo album Are You Serious, tracks from his early days in Bowl of Fire, and even instrumentals from Echolocations with freshly written lyrics. Between most songs he added personal anecdotes, explaining the story behind his music ranging from sentimental moments of growth (such as recently having children) to assignments for Zach Galifianakis TV show (which ended up not even having a title sequence).
Overall, the show was incredible, showcasing his superior songwriting talents, his unique instrumental abilities, and his impressive voice blended with the harmonies of Jason Adasiewicz. Bird’s goal for the show was to fill “the beautiful space with music and warmth,” and he did just that. After two hours he wrapped up the show with his most popular song “Pulaski at Night,” a tribute to his hometown of Chicago, “the city of light.” Not only did he receive a standing ovation, but he received a second one after the encore, exemplifying his talent and ability to connect with his audience. Through just one show, Andrew Bird was able to convey and share the indescribable feeling of gezelligheid with Nashville.