Blind Pilot is headed for success. The band, which played two sold out shows at the Great American Music Hall on Saturday, November 19 and Sunday November 20, has spent the last few years making a stellar reputation for themselves and now they are reaping the benefits. This isn’t to say that they hadn’t made significant progress before now. They performed at Outside Lands back in 2009, toured the west coast by bicycle, and earlier this year were on tour with the Decemberists. But for this humble, Portland-based band who have been on the road since early September and have tour dates scheduled through March of next year, things are heating up fast.
Saturday night started off with the upbeat “Keep You Right,” off their new album We Are The Tide. Despite only being released in September of this year, a large percentage of the crowd was already familiar with (and singing along to) the new tracks. The night was full of songs off of both of their albums including “Two Towns From Me,” “Oviedo,” “Always,” “The Story I Heard,” and “One Red Thread.” Lead singer and guitarist Israel Nebeker is an engaging frontman without any ego whose sincerity and modesty shine through his performance. Luke Ydstie (upright bassist) and Kati Claborn (banjo, dulcimer) added delicate harmonies throughout the night. The band also includes Ian Krist (vibraphones), and Dave Jorgensen (keyboards, trumpet).
Jorgensen was a big hit during his trumpet solos. Indeed, it takes an amazingly talented musician to play technically perfect trumpet with one hand and keyboards with the other. Nebeker also captivated the audience when he tried his hand at the harmonium during the slow and haunting “New York.” They ended the night with “We Are The Tide,” which highlights the band’s ability to sound full without sounding crowded.
As an encore, Nebeker came out and introduced his song “The Bitter End” as the song he wrote while waiting tables and worrying about his family and their proximity to a tsunami on the west coast (no tsunami ever came). The band joined him onstage and for the most magical moment of the night, the six members stepped down into the audience and performed the last song unplugged. “Please put away cell phones and cameras,” Nebeker asked, “and just film with your eyes.” Most of the audience obliged, everyone sat down, and we were all treated to a beautifully intimate acoustic version of the title track off their debut album 3 Rounds and a Sound. With the crowd joining in for the last chorus, there could not have been a more appropriate or stunning way to end the evening.
Big things are in store for Blind Pilot and they couldn’t be happening to a more humble and talented group of musicians.