NYFF 2011: ‘Andrew Bird: Fever Year’ guaranteed to earn scores of new admirers


Andrew Bird: Fever Year 

Directed by Xan Aranda

2011, USA

Andrew Bird’s music has been described as “unclassifiable.”  Likewise, the movie that chronicles the last couple concerts of what Bird playfully names his “Fever Year” is also hard to categorize.  An intriguing amalgamation of documentary and concert film, Andrew Bird: Fever Year provides incredible insight into the creative process of a truly unique musical talent and studies the immeasurable passion of an obsessive performer. 

In 2009, Andrew Bird set for himself a grueling tour schedule comprised of 165 shows.  The work that goes into such an intensive experience takes its toll on the performer.   For much of the year, he suffers chills, sweats, and a persistent fever (giving the film its evocative title), but it’s a testament to his relentlessness that Bird interprets his fever not as a weakness but as his body’s attempt to evolve into “a different kind of animal perfectly adapted to the music hall.”      

Xan Aranda, the film’s director, has built a relationship with the singer-songwriter over a series of joint projects, having worked on two of his music videos and the background visuals for his live shows.  This intimacy comes across in the affectionate details of the portrait she assembles for her film.  Aranda understands what makes Bird’s music and his personality great; therefore, her choices, both in a visual and narrative sense, add up to a very respectful depiction of this mad creative genius.   

Undeniably one of the more appealing charms of the movie is its exploration of an artist’s exceptional, sometimes peculiar way of looking at his world.  Bird’s irregular point of view results frequently in astonishing music and occasionally in absurdist lyrics.  For instance, during one attempt at explaining his songwriting process Bird admits to inventing words not necessarily for their meaning but because of their cadence, like he did for the song “Tenuousness.” Also in regards to his songwriting methodology, it was very interesting to learn that he doesn’t write anything down.  When he strikes upon something he likes, he simply hopes that it’s good enough to reoccur to him later.   

Not surprisingly Bird also takes an unexpected approach to performing, preferring to keep it loose and, in his words, “malleable.”  A mistake or mistiming in a performance doesn’t bother him.  He chooses not to see it as a failure but as a natural part of the live experience, a chance to distinguish one show from the one before it.  Even his bandmates attest that they hate it when a show feels too controlled or too “perfect.”  

At one point in the film, Bird describes the microphones of his recording studio as the worst kind of audience.  He thrives on the feedback he can get from a concert setting.  Again and again he honorably demonstrates that making music is no act of self-indulgence but an opportunity for him to connect with other people.  His touching commitment to fans of his music shines abundantly clear in the message of Fever Year.  Those fans will love this film for its insights on his musical philosophy and the reflections on his hard-earned success.  And for those who have not yet heard of Andrew Bird, Fever Year is guaranteed to earn him scores of new admirers.  (I can name at least one.)        

 

- Kenneth Broadway

 

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By Kenneth

For Kenneth Broadway, one bachelor’s degree wasn’t enough.  So after the four grueling years it took to earn his B.A. in English and three years more trying to figure out something to do with it, he ignored the prudent advice of some very erudite professors who encouraged him to go to grad school and instead enrolled in a film program at Full Sail University.  Fast forward two years and he has emerged a film school graduate knowing a little more about a lot of different facets of filmmaking, and more importantly, he knows more than ever what he knew when he entered film school in the first place.  He wants to tell stories for a living.  His academic life having revolved around books and movies, nothing thrills Kenneth more than a good literary adaptation (see Amadeus, The Remains of the Day, and The Lord of the Rings for examples).  A little magic in his movies makes him happy.  But you can keep your heavy-handed special effects; he will choose a quiet, anecdotal premise over explosive senselessness any day. In his spare time, he writes or he watches movies or he writes about watching movies, and that’s what brought him to Sound on Sight.

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One Response to NYFF 2011: ‘Andrew Bird: Fever Year’ guaranteed to earn scores of new admirers

  1. Erick B September 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Figured that Andrew Bird fans would want to know that on the NORMAN movie Facebook page, there are two exclusive Andrew Bird tracks from the upcoming soundtrack release. These tracks are not available anywhere else and will only be posted until October 3.

    NORMAN is an award-winning film; a funny, yet intelligent and deeply felt portrayal of a troubled high-school teenager. We’re working with To Write Love On Her Arms and others to use the film as a way to raise awareness about teen depression and suicide, the 3rd leading cause of death for 18-24 year old Americans!

    Here’s the link to the tracks: listn.to/normanmovie

    Thanks so much.

    the NORMAN crew

    Reply

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