Ode to Beirut
I’m talking about the band here, not the city or drinking game. Beirut the band, headed by the adorable and young Zach Condon, came to being in 2006 after Condon returned from a stay in Europe that enamored him to Balkan folk music. He recorded the first album, Gulag Orkestar, by himself in his bedroom, only going into the studio at the very end to get some help from Jeremy Barnes of Neutral Milk Hotel and A Hawk and a Hacksaw and Heather Trost of A Hawk and a Hacksaw (don’t ask me how he got such talented friends!).
I was privileged to see their second live show ever, first in new York, on May 10, 2006 when they opened for Irving at the Knitting Factory. Of course that show was far from perfect, but it certainly whet my appetite, thus starting my great love affair with the band. I’ve seen them numerous times since then, have all of their albums (after Gulag came 3 EPs: Lon Gisland, Pompeii, and Elephant Gun, followed by the Flying Cub Cup and then the March of the Zapotec/Holland EP). The music makes me happy and introspective and I can’t help but tap my toes. I even had the band at my wedding learn a few of their songs!
The Guggenheim is having a summer music series called Dark Sounds that hosts musicians in their space one evening a month. Beirut played the first on July 15, Andrew Bird and Ian Schneller the second on August 5, and Cinematic Orchestra will play the final one on September 3. For $25 you get to see their current exhibit, Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance, and hear some great music. The acoustics were actually pretty good, and looking up on the spiral of people was pretty cool. In fact, the audience members managed to get the wave going while waiting for the band to come out and it looked pretty amazing going around the spiral. The gaggle of young women in the front row practically fainting at Condon’s every breath was pretty entertaining as well. The band played an eclectic set from all their material and their music fit very well with the ghost-like artwork in the museum.
I’m not sure what Beirut plans to do next, but I can’t wait to find out!