Photography by Mark Wojahn
Birds of Chicago’s audience banter was funny and heartwarming. They harmonized beautifully and worked off of each other playfully. Each shared a story of their grandparents between songs. Nero wore his grandfather’s wool hat that he’d worn 41 years, then sang a song inspired by his grandfather. Russell talked about being inspired by her Scottish grandmother in Saskatchewan before singing heartwrenching “Barley,” a dark, mesmerizing song serving as a salve during these painful days. They closed their set with “American Flowers,” a folk tune inspired by Woodie Guthrie, and driving across vast plains, that they encouraged the audience sing along to the chorus, as is folk tradition.
Time was a prevalent theme throughout June’s music and the show. They performed songs from her stunning second full-length record, The Order of Time, such as“Man Done Wrong” “The Front Door” the rousing “Got Soul” “Slip Slide on By” “If And” and “Just In Time.” At various points June talked about concepts of time, time in our lives, inevitability, aging, loss, grief and transcendence.
They also performed songs from her preceding album, Pushin’ Against A Stone, such as “Tennessee Time.” Between songs, June shared strong messages in her sweet voice, crackling at times with emotion from the heart, at times evoking an old wise woman or a shaman, speaking from another plane. Before singing “You Can’t Be Told,” she encouraged audience members to rid their self-doubt. “Don’t let family or friends tell you how to be. When they tell you “don’t do this,” “Don’t do that,” continue to do what feels right to you!” she advised.
At times her songs sounded like they came from another space and time. Her unique angelic vocals soared and lifted the heart, her poetic lyrics inspiring to the core. She shared a story about hearing a beautiful voice in her head, then quickly writing the song down so she wouldn’t forget it, as one does with a dream sometimes. Then she sang us that beautiful mesmerizing song, “Twined and Twisted.”
The show felt like a dream sometimes, spellbinding as June spoke entrancingly about experiencing the feeling of the very dark cozy space just before sleep, floating in the clouds, or talking about fairy dust, in the palm of our hands, as we look for the light in ourselves. How it feels to have lived a beautiful day, simply because we lived for one more day.